In the short history of drones, acquiring authorization to fly has been a real hassle. FAA regulations require that you provide advanced notice and be cleared before take off—even for a flight under 400 feet.
But a new program called LAANC promises to make life easier for drone pilots and operators who want the freedom to launch with ease at a moment’s notice.
Let’s take a closer look at what LAANC is, why it matters and how it’s going to make airspace authorization a whole lot easier for drone professionals and recreational users alike.
What It Is
LAANC is short for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, and it’s the brainchild of the FAA UAS Data Exchange. This Data Exchange serves as a collaboration between government and private industry to clearly communicate airspace data between both sectors.
LAANC is an automated application and approval system that grants virtually instant access to controlled airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorization requests for unmanned aircraft (UAS) operators nationwide.
Using one of the LAANC mobile apps, drone operators can request airspace authorization with just a few taps. The request is then checked against airspace data in the FAA UAS Data Exchange, and if approved, pilots will receive permission to fly almost instantly.
Why It’s Needed
According to the FAA’s notice in the Federal Register, “Using the LAANC system, the FAA will be able to grant near-real-time authorizations for the vast majority of operations.”
They go on to highlight how LAANC is crucial to keeping the National Airspace System Safe in three primary ways:
- Faster authorization processing means it’s easier to comply with 14 CFR 107.41.
- Authorization requests won’t distract air traffic controllers from other duties as much.
- Requesting authorization is faster and easier for the general public.
Overall, the FAA hopes that LAANC will reduce non-compliant drone flights by making the entire process of obtaining low altitude authorization faster, easier, and more accessible.
Implementation of an on-demand authorization system like LAANC has been long overdue. The hope is that it can alleviate some of the strain that both operators and the FAA experience processing the high volume of local authorization applications. Another major benefit of LAANC is that it provides FAA's Air Traffic visibility into where and when planned drone operations will take place.
What The Benefits Are
Currently, under the small UAS rule, drone pilots or operators planning to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet are required to obtain an airspace authorization from the FAA.
Recreational flyers who want to fly within 5 miles of an airport under the protections of Section 336 must give advanced notice to both air traffic control and the airport operator.
Non-recreational flyers operating in Class B, C, D, or E at the surface airspace can now do so quickly and easily by using the new app.
By utilizing the LAANC app, drone pilots and companies can:
- Apply to receive a near real-time authorization for operations under 400 feet in the controlled airspace around airports.
- Expect dramatically decreased wait time experienced with the manual authorization process and gain greater flexibility in operational planning.
- Request to fly above the designated altitude ceiling in a UAS Facility Map, up to 400 feet. Applicants may apply up to 90 days in advance of a flight and the approval is coordinated manually through the FAA.
Note: If you are planning an operation in controlled airspace that requires a waiver AND an airspace authorization you will still need to apply for both through the FAA's Drone Zone Portal.
How To Begin Using It
As of this month, LAANC has been fully deployed in 6 waves, regionally. This means that it should now be available at nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports across the country.
For the foreseeable future, you can continue to manually file for airspace authorizations or waivers via the FAA website. However, if the LAANC system proves to be effective and efficient, I don’t see why it wouldn’t eventually become their main approval method. The FAA will likely even expand the system to include additional types of authorizations and waivers.
Therefore, it might be in your best interest to go ahead and give LAANC a try and start getting your team accustomed to obtaining authorization via this new method. It’s going to save you time and make your job a lot easier in the end.
To begin using LAANC, simply download one of the apps on your phone and follow the provided instructions.