FAA Begins Testing Phase for Nationwide Airspace Authorization for Drones

LAANC will be implemented at about 500 airports around the country.

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The UAS authorization system for operations in controlled airspace is entering the beta testing phase.Wikimedia Commons

A beta testing phase of the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) is being incrementally implemented across the United States. The testing phase has begun in the south central region of the country and, once completed in mid-September, the LAANC will cover nearly 300 air traffic control facilities and about 500 airports.

A prototype of the system has been in place since November at 44 airports, the majority of which are located within the Minneapolis ARTCC.

LAANC aims to implement drone operations while keeping other aircraft in the national airspace system safe. Authorizations are based on TFRs, Notams and UAS facility maps that show the maximum altitude ceiling around airports where the FAA can authorize UAS operations under Part 107.

LAANC streamlines the authorization process for drone operators to use controlled airspace. While these operators had to endure a long application process just a few months ago, they can now apply and receive authorization almost immediately in the areas where the system has been deployed. Applications can be as easy as a few taps on a smartphone app. Digital airspace authorization services are offered through several suppliers, including AirMap, 3DR, Betterview, Converge and DroneDeploy.

Companies that wish to become what the FAA terms Approved UAS Service Suppliers to provide LAANC services can apply. The FAA plans to host two application periods per year. The deadline for the current application period is May 16.