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Instant Airspace Authorizations Expand Nationwide: FAA Timeline Announced for Full LAANC Rollout

BY Zacc Dukowitz
7 March 2018

The FAA just announced a timeline for rolling out LAANC nationwide at the 2018 FAA UAS Symposium in Baltimore, Maryland.

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Starting in April, LAANC will expand to nearly 300 air traffic control facilities across approximately 500 airports throughout the U.S., covering 78,000 miles of airspace.

Why is this big news?

Here’s why: for the majority of airports in the U.S., if you want to fly your drone in airspace that’s restricted because it’s close to an airport, the only way to get permission is to submit an airspace authorization request through the FAADroneZone, and wait.

After submitting your request, the approval process could take months (up to 90 days, according to the FAA) and you may not hear a single word while your request is being considered.

But with LAANC, you can get airspace authorization immediately using apps like AirMap or Skyward, and others coming soon—more on that below.

Many drone operators have been at the mercy of the existing process, waiting for long periods of time without any updates for authorization to fly an operation within five miles of a local airport. Other scenarios that need quick responses, such as search and rescue operations, have also been impossible to navigate with the existing process, given the urgent time constraints in such scenarios.

LAANC promises a solution, but the timeline for rolling it out on scale has been up in the air until this point.

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LAANC Rollout Timeline

The LAANC rollout will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month.

Here is the order of when LAANC will be active in each region of the United States:

  • April 30: South Central USA
  • May 24: Western North USA
  • June 21: Western South USA
  • July 19: Eastern South USA
  • August 16: Eastern North USA
  • September 13: Central North USA

LAANC History, and Competition Concerns

Instant airspace authorizations via LAANC first went live back in November at just a few airports.

At the time, it was only available through four private companies—Skyward, Airmap, Rockwell Collins, and Project X.

This small group was concerning to many in the drone industry, because it seemed like the ability to offer LAANC might be limited to only a few big players. This would mean that only a chosen few would get special access, while other platforms, like Kittyhawk or Dronebase, wouldn’t be allowed to offer LAANC.

The FAA has addressed these concerns in their recent announcement, stating that they’re going to be accepting applications for other companies to become LAANC service providers, which should help to level the playing field somewhat.

For now, we’re just excited to see such positive forward motion on the LAANC rollout. This will certainly help drone operators all over the country, and is one more step toward streamlining operations for drone flight ops in U.S. airspace.

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