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FAA Expands LAANC Access to Hobbyists

BY Zacc Dukowitz
23 July 2019

Today the FAA announced that LAANC access has been expanded to recreational drone pilots, which means hobbyists can now request instant airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace near airports.

laanc-hobbyists
Image source

Since May, recreational drone pilots have been in limbo when it comes to flying near airports.

Historically hobbyists were allowed to fly within five miles of an airport so long as they followed the five-mile rule, which required them to notify the airport and the air traffic control tower (if one was present) before doing so.

In late May, the FAA abolished the five-mile rule, announcing that hobbyists could no longer fly within controlled airspace near airports without first obtaining airspace authorization, just as commercial drone pilots must do.

But there was a catch—unlike commercial pilots, who have access to instant airspace authorizations via LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability), hobbyists could not yet use LAANC, which effectively meant they couldn’t fly near airports unless they wanted to go through the rather lengthy process of requesting airspace authorization by submitting a form and undergoing a manual review.

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 means the FAA has further increased drone pilots’ access to controlled airspace safely and efficiently.

The FAA

Last week we interviewed Tyler Dobbs of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), who spoke about the FAA’s target date for making LAANC available to recreational pilots as being July 23rd.

Well, today is July 23rd, and hobbyists can now use LAANC.

This is good news if you’re hobbyist, and also good news for the drone industry in general, since it shows the FAA sticking to it’s proposed timeline for big rollouts like this.

[Read the FAA’s official statement about the LAANC expansion here.]

What Is LAANC?

LAANC allows drone pilots—now both commercial and recreational—to obtain instant airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace near airports. This means a pilot can literally get authorization for a mission while standing in the location where they want to fly, without having to take action ahead of time.

LAANC was created as a way for the FAA to work more directly with the private drone sector to authorize and monitor the flights of remote pilots.

Prior to LAANC, commercial pilots who wanted airspace authorization for flights in controlled airspace had to submit a request via the FAADroneZone.

After submitting their request it could take a long time to hear back—in some cases a week or two, but in many several months. These delays and the lack of predictability around the approval process made it hard for commercial pilots to commit to jobs in controlled airspace—after submitting a request, they couldn’t promise a client when they could actually do the work because there was no telling when, or if, they would get authorization to do the work.

LAANC has helped alleviate these problems by fast-tracking the whole process, providing drone pilots with a way to get instantaneous authorization to fly in controlled airspace.

Zacc Dukowitz

Contributing Writer

A writer with professional experience in education technology and digital marketing, Zacc Dukowitz is passionate about reporting on the drone industry at a time when UAVs can help us live better lives. Zacc also holds the rank of nidan in Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and is a widely published fiction writer. Zacc has an MFA from the University of Florida and a BA from St. John's College. Follow @zaccdukowitz or check out zaccdukowitz.com to read his work.

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