More Drone Access to Controlled Airspace
Starting today (May 23, 2019) more than 100 additional control towers and airports will be added to LAANC.
Starting today (May 23, 2019) more than 100 additional control towers and airports will be added to the hundreds of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic facilities and airports that currently use the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC) system.
Over 98% of the land in the United States does not require any authorization to fly a drone up to 400’ above ground level; however, there are still major portions of US cities that are in controlled airspace.
Thankfully, over the past few years, the FAA has considerably loosened their airspace restrictions, while also making it much easier and faster to get one-off airspace authorizations for project sites near, or even on airports themselves.
Of the 15,000 airports in the US, fewer than 900 are in controlled airspace that requires authorization. And now, nearly 600 airports participate in the FAA’s LAANC program.
LAANC is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability; it provides access to controlled airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations below approved altitudes in controlled airspace. Non-participating airports can still grant authorization through a manual filing if needed.
So in almost all cases, the answer is “yes” it’s legal to fly there, and it is much easier to get approval than it was even one year ago.
LAANC directly supports the safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems into the nation's airspace. LAANC expedites the time it takes for a drone pilot to receive authorization to fly under 400’ in controlled airspace. By adding contract towers to the number of LAANC-enabled facilities, drone pilots will have access to more than 400 towers covering nearly 600 airports.
Contract towers are air traffic control towers that are staffed by employees of private companies rather than by FAA employees. LAANC provides air traffic professionals with visibility into where and when authorized drones are flying near airports and helps ensure that everyone can safely operate within the airspace. The expansion to more than 100 contract towers means the FAA has further increased drone pilots’ access to controlled airspace safely and efficiently.
LAANC is currently used by commercial pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule (PDF) (Part 107). The FAA is upgrading LAANC to allow recreational flyers to use the system and in the future, recreational flyers will be able to obtain authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace. For now, recreational flyers who want to operate in controlled airspace may only do so at fixed sites.
For updates to LAANC capabilities, visit www.faa.gov/go/laanc.