Regulation, Unmanned

Near-Instant Nationwide Drone Use Authorization on the Way

A small drone in use near a plane. (Fair use photo by Tim Anderson)

The FAA has heard the complaints about slow bureaucracy. It knows an agency needs to be nimble to keep up with changing technology and the shifting priorities of modern-day companies and users. To that end, it is pursuing a method to allow it to process requests for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to use controlled airspace in “near real time.”

With the low altitude authorization and notification capability (LAANC), several air traffic facilities in November began the trial use of an automated processing of applications by drone operators to use air traffic facilities’ airspace as required by the FAA’s Part 107 small drone rule. According to the FAA, this not only speeds up the process for those operators getting the automated responses, but also removes them from the queue, thus expediting the process for operators requiring manual approval as well.

Beginning April 30, this process will expand out to a nationwide beta test incrementally spreading to cover an eventual 500 airports by Sept. 13, the FAA said. For one month beginning April 16, the FAA will accept and consider applications from more entities to provide LAANC services beyond the current four (Rockwell Collins, AirMap, Project Wing and Skyward).

The LAANC system relies on data sharing and UAS facility maps to show where and at what altitudes around airports the FAA would likely authorize UAS activity. The FAA said it considers LAANC a step toward developing a robust UAS traffic management system.

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