December 7, 2022

image courtesy AirMap

Leading airspace intelligence platform AirMap says that “instantaneous authorization” for drone operation in controlled airspace is coming soon.

AirMap has partnered with the FAA on the development of LAANC, the Low-Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, to help commercial pilots streamline the waiver process.

Currently in the US, drone operators must get authorization to fly in controlled airspace.  The existing waiver process – which can take 90 days or more – has been a major problem for the industry.  Commercial operators concerned with following the rules complain that they often do not have enough advance notice for jobs to apply for and receive authorizations, and risk losing jobs to operators willing to break the rules.  “Without a smarter airspace authorization solution in place, the United States economy is missing out the $127.3 billion global market value of the commercial drone sector,” says AirMap.

AirMap introduces LAANC as a crucial piece of the unmanned traffic control (UTM) puzzle: on that “can unlock the commercial drone economy, opening the airspace for business.”

The first phase of LAANC is the release of FAA UAS Facility Maps.  The FAA began to release these maps in April, and plans to continue over the next year. These maps are the same used by FAA personnel to approve waivers, and allow commercial pilots to understand the controlled airspace and adjust their requests accordingly.  The FAA hopes that broad release of these maps will reduce the time that it takes for FAA approval. “Last week’s release of FAA UAS Facility Maps includes 103 new airports, bringing the total to 327 airports, covering over 60% of surface controlled airspace across the country,” says AirMap. “More importantly, 14 of the new airports are in Class B airspace in major metro areas, opening the skies for business.”

But more significant progress is in the works, according to AirMap.  Soon, says the company, “LAANC will evolve into a digital and automated process, with instantaneous authorization on the AirMap platform.”  To operators suffering lost income while waiting for a waiver, that automation can’t come fast enough – and would represent a very significant step forward for drone integration and the US drone industry.