The Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC – pronounced “LANCE.”)
The LAANC program is one of the most significant developments in drone regulations to come out this year – and it’s happening now. LAANC means that professional operators will be able to get authorizations for lower-risk operations in controlled airspace in real time, by requesting directly from their airspace management platform, instead of having to wait 90 days or more. It represents a significant improvement for both operators and regulators over the current system. The limited pilot program has proven successful; and the FAA has now announced that it will expand the program to include 500 more airports starting April 30. All airports in the U.S. should be included over the next couple of years.
Embry-Riddle is the world’s leading university for aeronautics, and provides expert training in drone operations and regulations. Dr. Brent A. Terwilliger, Program Chair, MSUASE (Online) in the Department of Engineering and Technology at Embry-Riddle, says that LAANC is an important new development:
“LAANC enables closer coordination between airports and UAS pilots within controlled airspace environments,” says Terwilliger. “This will improve communication, safety, and effectiveness, while providing improved operational visibility and checks among those involved with the system. The wider roll out of LAANC is exciting because it shows a large number of airports are supportive of the technology and are actively engaged in promoting safe operation.”
Local Regulations are another hot topic in drone regulation. While the FAA started out by taking a firm stance against local regulation, they’ve since decided on a more pragmatic collaborative approach. The new Department of Transportation Drone Integration Pilot Program is designed to include state, local and tribal lawmakers in the regulation process and give them an opportunity to test drone operations in their communities. This shift makes it even more critical that drone operators are aware of local rules before they fly.
“There are a multitude of state and local laws applicable to unmanned aviation, and since this technology and the regulations governing its use are evolving so rapidly it is beneficial to form a good relationship with local government,” says Terwilliger. “Local agencies know the nuances of their environment, so they can help you become more aware of unique hazards, challenges, or concerns that might affect operational safety.”
“Local governments are also learning about the benefits of UAS,” Terwilliger comments. “By actively engaging with local civic agencies, you can remain current on changing rules and laws – while helping to promote safe and efficient use of UAS.”
Flight Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS)
What’s the next big priority for the FAA in regulation? Indications are that regulations will expand to include BVLOS flight. FAA partners researching the safety implications of BVLOS flight have turned in their reports, and the agency says it is getting ready to move. BVLOS flight is legal in many other countries, and allows applications like long-range infrastructure inspections (on railway lines and roads, for example) and large scale agriculture.
“This is leading to an increased value proposition for UAS; with the ability to fly BVLOS, remote pilots are able to cover greater distances and areas,” comments Terwilliger. “This translates to improved functionality, operational effectiveness, and efficiency gains, given the time and financial investment. Commercial users of UAS technology will be able perform more meaningful operations, without time consuming relocations for individual takeoffs and landings necessary to keep flights within VLOS.”
“Programs such as the UAS Integration Pilot Program are also expected to result in increased BVLOS operations, over people (non-participants), at night, and with platforms greater than 55 pounds,” he says. “In turn, this will help us understand the potential economic impact and opportunities, safety management and critical infrastructure protection, and methods to improve regulation and management of the technology at the state and local levels.”
Drone regulation is changing rapidly. It’s up to professional operators to stay on top of the latest developments, and ensure that they know the rules of the airspace before they fly for clients.