The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has partnered with Kittyhawk to redevelop B4UFLY—the FAA’s first mobile app designed to let recreational drone pilots know where they should and should not fly.
The FAA’s current B4UFLY app. Image source: FAA
The improvements will focus on user experience so that recreational drone operators can fly safely and responsibly. The current B4UFLY app does this with a color-coded (red, orange, or yellow) flight status indicator to signal whether or not there are restrictions on drone flight in the area.
B4UFLY will continue to be available to the public until the new app is deployed (scheduled for an unspecified time in 2019). The data reflected in the current app will continue to be updated regularly, but no new features will be added.
Anticipated Improvements to the B4UFLY App
Kittyhawk will use their recently released Dynamic Airspace product to power the new and improved B4UFLY mobile app.
Kittyhawk’s Updated Dynamic Airspace product. Image source: Kittyhawk
Some features of Dynamic Airspace we might see carried over into the B4UFLY app include advisories, warnings, weather, and alerts that give a clearer operational picture of the airspace.
Depending on how the FAA chooses to move forward with the requirements established in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, we may also see B4UFLY updated with LAANC capabilities for recreational drone pilots.
Commercial drone pilots use the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) to obtain instant airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace near airports. Recreational drone operators do not have to request permission to fly in controlled airspace, and therefore don’t use LAANC. Instead, recreational drone pilots are only required to notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower to fly within five miles of an airport.
However, the Reauthorization Act set out to change this. In Sec. 349 of the Act, new precedent is set for recreational operators, requiring them to obtain prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating in controlled airspace. Simply contacting air traffic control will no longer suffice.
As the FAA works on implementing the provisions of the Act and updates the B4UFLY app, it is likely that recreational drone pilots will be required to use LAANC like commercial operators.
Kittyhawk: The FAA’s Choice Private-Sector Partner
The FAA frequently brings on private-sector companies to partner with them on initiatives to improve the navigability and safety of the national airspace.
As drone sales increase and our nation’s airspace becomes busier and more complex, it’s vital that we work smarter and partner with the private sector to develop innovative products that advance safety.
—Dan Elwell, Acting FAA Administrator
Kittyhawk is an enterprise drone operations software company that has been an FAA LAANC UAS Service Supplier since October 2018. With the possibility of LAANC being added to the B4UFLY app, it makes sense that the FAA would choose one of their existing UAS Service Suppliers to partner with for this project. Drone Business Center also reports that KittyHawk took on the project pro bono.
As an official LAANC UAS Service Supplier, Kittyhawk is able to source airspace data from the FAA directly. This enables them to provide up-to-date and accurate airspace data, vastly improving the flying experiences of all kinds of operators. Their products are designed primarily to serve enterprise clients, but the company has a mutual interest in the safe operation of drones by recreational pilots as well.
We believe that Kittyhawk needs to be building our industry alongside of our company. Our goal is for our enterprise customers to be flying as much as possible. Flights don’t happen easier or more frequently when negligent operators are shutting down airports, breaching Presidential TFR’s, or endangering our national security.
—Joshua Ziering, Founder of Kittyhawk
The current B4UFLY is available for free download in the App Store for iOS and Google Play store for Android. What updates do you expect or hope to see with the upcoming B4UFLY update? Tell us on our community forum.