What is LAANC?
LAANC, or Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, was created to build a bridge between the FAA and drone pilots. It allows the FAA to better monitor unmanned aircraft flying even in controlled airspace. Before LAANC, it would take drone pilots weeks or even months to get their flights approved. Now, through this process, flights in low altitudes can be approved instantly, giving drone pilots much more freedom and flexibility. To apply for LAANC, all you need to do is fill out a flight plan online or through an app, and the flight will be either approved or justifiably denied within minutes. These apps or websites will also make you aware of any NOTAMS (Notices to airmen) or TFRs (Temporary Flight Restrictions) that could potentially interfere with your flight plan. While it is good practice to file your flight plan a day or two in advance in case there are any unforeseen restrictions, flights can be planned up to 90 days in advance. LAANC has opened the door for UAS integration into national airspace, and has relieved a lot of frustration for drone pilots.
When should I use LAANC?
While LAANC isn’t necessary when flying in uncontrolled airspace, it is still a good idea to file your flight plan before taking off no matter where you are. LAANC applies to both recreational and commercial uses, so even hobbyists who aren’t Part 107 certified should use it when flying in controlled airspace. Many airports with controlled airspace are participating in LAANC, but not all. LAANC is available in Class B, C, D, or E airspace, and currently 726 airports in the United States are participating. A full list of all FAA facilities participating in LAANC can be found here. But there are still a few airports that require a manual application process to fly, which could take weeks to be approved, so be sure to plan ahead. LAANC also only applies to flights up to 400 ft. during daylight hours. If your flight includes any plans to fly at night or above 400 ft., you will need to apply for additional waivers and permissions.
How do I apply for LAANC?
The FAA has made it as simple as possible to submit a flight plan through LAANC. The process only takes a few minutes, and can be completed 100% online or through a smartphone app such as Airmap, Kittyhawk, or Skyward. To apply, you will need to download one of these apps (or use a desktop version online), and create an account. Once your account is set up, you can file a flight plan that includes some details about your flight. These details include the location, radius, and time of flight, maximum altitude, max speed of flight, whether it is Part 107 or Recreational, and possibly a few more. You are able to view your flight plan on a map to see if it overlaps with any controlled airspace that may interfere with your flight. Once you submit the flight, it will either be approved instantly, or rejected with reason.
What apps are available to use to get LAANC approval?
There are several popular apps that drone pilots typically use to apply for LAANC.
A great app for new or inexperienced drone pilots is Airmap. This app is free, simple, easy to use, and perfect for users that are just getting started with their drone careers or fly as a hobby. The informative maps on this app will show you boundaries of any controlled airspace nearby, boundaries of National Parks, real-time first responder activity near your flight, and more. To submit a flight on Airmap, all you need to do is provide a few details about your flight, and it will make you aware of any advisories in your area, and whether or not these advisories will interfere with your flight. Airmap will approve or reject the flight plan instantly, and let you know the reason for rejection.
Another popular app for LAANC approval is Kittyhawk. This app is significantly more robust than Airmap, offering many more features that go way beyond LAANC. This app has free or paid subscription plans, and is ideal for multiple users or members of a drone team as it is scalable depending on the size of your company. Some of the additional features include live video streaming to remote members of your team, conference call capability, drone safety protocols, and more.
Skyward is another excellent option for more experienced drone pilots to apply for LAANC. Like Kittyhawk, Skyward also offers many more features than simply LAANC approval. Owned by Verizon, this app is robust and ideal for surveillance, mapping, and other complex drone mapping capabilities. It includes industry-specific software settings for construction, engineering, energy, insurance, public safety, and more. Skyward also has the ability to create a pilot profile that can help pilots network and find drone jobs.
What do I do if LAANC isn’t approved?
If your flight plan is rejected, whatever app you used will most likely explain why. It could be as simple as entering a maximum height above 400 ft., or proposing a time that is after the sun has set. These issues can be fixed by adjusting your flight plan as necessary. It also could be rejected because the restricted airspace you are planning to fly in is not participating in LAANC.
What do I do if LAANC isn’t available?
As mentioned before, not all airports in the United States are participating in LAANC. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t fly there! There is still a manual process in place to apply to fly in controlled airspace not covered by LAANC. For detailed information on how to fly in this scenario, click here. Or, if you are planning to fly in an airspace that not only requires authorization, but also a waiver, you must apply through the FAA’s process on DroneZone.
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