FAA Expands Airspace Access for Remote Pilots Through LAANC

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On May 23, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) added more than 100 control towers and airports to the hundreds of FAA air traffic facilities and airports that currently use the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC) system.

LAANC, a collaboration between the FAA and industry, expedites the time it takes for a drone pilot to receive authorization to fly under 400 feet 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, the agency says.

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 FAA explains. The expansion to more than 100 contract towers means the FAA has further increased drone pilots’ access to controlled airspace safely and efficiently, according to the agency.

LAANC is currently used by remote pilots who operate under Part 107. The FAA is upgrading LAANC to allow recreational flyers to use the system, and in the future, they 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 do so only at fixed sites, as explained in a recent FAA update.

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