Fifty Airports to Adopt Automated Airspace Authorization for Drones

Fifty U.S. airports will soon be allowing unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators to apply for automated authorization to fly in controlled airspace.

According to an announcement from AirMap, which provides an airspace management platform for drone operators, 50 airports will be rolling out a Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) before the end of 2017 (with all airports to follow next year).

The company explains that airspace authorization requests are normally “subject to long waiting periods of up to 90 days and labor-intensive manual approvals.” However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) brought together 12 companies (including AirMap) to figure out how third-party companies can assist the agency with automated authorization.

Now, according to AirMap, the LAANC will enable UAS pilots “to apply for instant, digital approval to fly in U.S. controlled airspace using the same applications they use for flight planning and in-flight situational awareness,” such as the AirMap app.

The company notes that LAANC commenced earlier this year when the FAA published its UAS facility maps, which showed areas and altitudes near airports where drone operators would be able to fly safely and thus “improve the quality” of their airspace authorization requests, the agency said in April.

Writing for Forbes, AirMap co-founder Greg McNeal says the “significance of the LAANC project can’t be overstated,” considering it’s the “first step in the actual implementation of unmanned traffic management” and it demonstrates that the FAA can “successfully embrace innovation and work with private sector providers to open more airspace to commercial drone operations.”

The full list of the 50 airports can be found here.


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