The FAA is taking steps to improve the processing of airspace authorization requests, by releasing the first set of UAS facility maps at the end of the month. “The maps will depict areas and altitudes near airports where UAS may operate safely,” says the agency. “They will help drone operators improve the quality of their Part 107 airspace authorization requests and will help the FAA process these requests more quickly.”
“Users will be able to download the data in several formats, view the site on mobile devices and customize their views.”
The facility maps should help commercial drone pilots to improve the quality of their applications, allowing them to “tailor their requests to align with locations and altitudes that the maps indicate are likely to be approved for small UAS operations,” says the FAA.
Drone operators have complained that the time it takes to process airspace authorization requests is excessive, causing them to lose jobs to operators willing to work without permission and insurance. The agency has responded to complaints about the authorization process by saying that the majority of applications that they receive are incomplete or filled out incorrectly. In an article published last October, the FAA said that “the agency has found that many applications have incorrect or incomplete information. Many applicants request too many waivers or request waivers for flights in types of airspace for which the FAA is not yet granting approvals. ”
Operators can apply for waivers or airspace authorizations through the automated portal here.
The new facility maps, available April 27 at http://www.faa.gov/uas, will be used by air traffic personnel to process requests, but the FAA cautions that altitudes that exceed what are depicted on the maps “require additional safety analysis and coordination to determine if an application can be approved.”
The maps are the first step that the FAA is taking to streamline the airspace authorization process. They will be released in phases, with the April 27 release containing about 200 maps. The agency plans to release additional maps over the next year. “Updates to the maps database will coincide with the agency’s existing 56-day aeronautical chart production schedule,” says the agency. “If a map is not yet available, it can be expected in future releases.”
The release of the maps is a welcome sign that the FAA is continuing to make efforts to collaborate with the drone industry and work towards improving administrative systems. Operators with further questions about the maps or the authorization process should contact the UAS Integration Office: [email protected] or 844-FLY-MY-UA.
Miriam McNabb is the CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. She writes for DRONELIFE on current news, financial trends, and FAA regulations. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.