Drone services provider AirMap is the next vendor to provide access to instant airspace authorizations through the FAA’s prototype evaluation of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system. Automated authorizations are available currently at only 4 U.S. airports: the FAA plans to add more facilities to the evaluation program in 2018.
“For the first time ever commercial drone operators can request automated authorization to fly in controlled airspace near select U.S. airports using the same AirMap iOS and Android applications they use today for flight planning and real-time situational awareness,” says the AirMap press release.
The LAANC system has been developed by the FAA in collaboration with industry partners. The system solves a significant problem for both the commercial operators and the FAA. Resource-constrained and overwhelmed with requests, the FAA has been unable to process airspace authorizations in a timely manner. The problem has led many drone operators to complain that following the rules and applying for authorizations has caused them to lose jobs to operators willing to work illegally.
The new system allows operators to apply through operations platforms and to receive nearly instant authorizations. “Before LAANC, waivers to fly in controlled airspace could only be obtained through a lengthy application process that can take up to 90 days. Now, drone operators have more flexibility than ever: automated authorization near participating airports takes only seconds with AirMap, even for drone operators on the go,” says the AirMap press release.
“With the free AirMap app, any Part 107 operator can view LAANC-enabled airspace and apply for authorization. AirMap submits the request to the FAA for approval, and in seconds, notifies the operator via text and in the app’s flight briefing that the request has been approved.”
Drone operators already using AirMap’s platform can upgrade the app to use the new features. Users can apply for two types of authorization with AirMap:
- Automated authorization: Up to predetermined altitudes near participating facilities, drone operators can receive approval in seconds to fly in controlled airspace.
- Manual authorization: If the flight requires manual approval by air traffic control, drone operators can request hassle-free authorization with just a tap, and receive confirmation in 30 days or less. Operators can also use AirMap to view conditions that would be eligible for automated authorization, and adjust their flight plans accordingly.
“LAANC is expected to dramatically reduce the incidence of noncompliant operations. The FAA estimates a minimum of 30% reduction in noncompliant operations would result in 450 fewer safety reports over the next six months,” the FAA stated in a recent notice.
“AirMap is very excited to work with the FAA and LAANC project partners to make automated authorization a reality,” said Ben Marcus, CEO of AirMap. “Now, drone operators can use AirMap to get immediate airspace access for flights that grow their businesses and accelerate the drone economy. These four airports are just the start. We’re looking forward to bringing automated authorization to airports across the country, and we hope that we can soon share LAANC authorization with our entire developer community.”
AirMap is the second provider to publicize its authorization to test the LAANC system. Verizon-owned Skyward was first to announce their participation in the program, prompting some competitors to protest that participation in the 12 member LAANC committee had given the company an unfair market advantage.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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