FAA Announces LAANC Expansion: Recreational Flyers are Now Included

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image: AirMap

The FAA has announced that starting today, the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) will include recreational drone flyers.

The news is important to recreational flyers.  As the FAA implements the repeal of Section 336, which protected recreational flyers from new regulation, recreational flight has been temporarily limited to specific listed sites in controlled airspace, including the area around airports.   The restriction was designed to be a temporary measure, until recreational flyers could be accommodated by the LAANC program.

LAANC allows drone pilots to receive real time authorization to fly in controlled airspace, and, says the FAA, “LAANC provides air traffic professionals with visibility into where and when authorized drones are flying near airports and helps ensure that everyone can safely operate within the airspace.”

Major providers of airspace intelligence apps have announced their new offerings.  AirMap, the first and still most widely used FAA-approved LAANC provider, shared an announcement and images of their updated app. The company will offer a webinar for recreational flyers on using the app in August.

Kittyhawk also announced the update, saying that further improvements are already in development.  “While a relatively new program, more LAANC improvements and updates are in the works,” writes Kittyhawk co-founder Jon Hegranes. “We’re exploring new ways to make grids smaller and more dynamic, ultimately opening up more airspace in which to fly. We’re working on ways to make map data more precise and applicable for drone flights, which was not the original consideration when sectional maps were conceived. Ultimately we’re looking to bring more education and understanding to what it means to fly aircraft in the NAS, and we’re excited that all drone pilots now have the tools to operate in controlled airspace.

Kitthawk also snagged the endorsement of drone manufacturing giant DJI. In a DJI press release: “Opening the LAANC system to recreational drone pilots is an important step in the FAA’s efforts to safely integrate drones into American skies by providing innovative solutions to regulatory requirements,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI Vice President of Policy & Legal Affairs. “Kittyhawk is the app I personally use when I want to check the airspace. DJI is glad to be able to recommend Kittyhawk’s easy-to-use tools to fly in compliance with the new requirements for recreational flights in controlled airspace.”

In that same press release, DJI says that the manufacturer is developing its own LAANC solution.  “The FAA approved DJI as a LAANC UAS Service Supplier last year, which will in the future allow DJI professional and recreational customers to use DJI solutions to seamlessly apply for LAANC approvals when planning flights,” says the release.  “Further details on LAANC services currently under development by DJI will be announced in due course.”

LAANC capability is accessible to all pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule (PDF)(Part 107).

For updates to LAANC capabilities, visit www.faa.gov/go/laanc.


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