Digital airspace authorization via LAANC — the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability — has been in testing for the past six months. Three days ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that LAANC will be rolled out to over 500 airports beginning on April 30, 2018.
What does this mean? Drone pilots will be able to have access to controlled airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations below approved altitudes in controlled airspace. At this time under Part 107 regulations, pilots or operators who want to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet AGL must receive an airspace authorization from the FAA. This currently involves a 19-step manual application process.
With LAANC, a pilot using an approved UAS Service Supplier (at this time, AirMap, Project Wing, Rockwell Collins and Skyward) can communicate their need to fly in controlled airspace to a control tower instantly through an app, then receive approval.
LAANC integrates drones safely into controlled airspace by giving Air Traffic Controllers an idea of where planned drone operations are taking place so that they can mitigate risk by ensuring that aircraft aren’t operating near the drone. ATC will also be able to contact the pilot and ground the drone in the event of an emergency or unplanned TFR.
More UAS Service Suppliers are likely to be approved in the future as LAANC rolls out. The rollout begins in the South Central USA on April 30, 2018, with the rest of the country scheduled as follows:
• Western North USA May 24, 2018
• Western South USA June 21, 2018
• Eastern South USA July 19, 2018
• Eastern North USA August 16, 2018
• Central North USA September 13, 2018