Yesterday Skyward announced that they have been approved by the FAA to give commercial drone pilots instant access to controlled airspace using the new Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC).
LAANC will enable businesses to access airspace that previously required the submission of a manual request for authorization.
Most importantly, LAANC will automate the approval process, reducing the wait time from months to seconds.
Some of the first airports where the LAANC program will be rolled out are:
- Cincinnati International Airport (CVG)
- Reno (RNO)
- San Jose (SJC)
- Lincoln (LNK)
The FAA has promised to include 49 airports in total by the end of the year (down from 50 a few months back), with more coming in 2018. Scroll down to see the full list of airports where LAANC has been promised for 2017.
Operators have had to wait 60-90 days to receive authorization under the existing system. Now, with Skyward and LAANC, enterprises can get approval to fly in just two clicks. With this hurdle gone, we can expect to see substantial adoption of drone technology at the enterprise level.
– Mariah Scott, Skyward Co-President
Skyward is not the only private company from which we can expect to see a LAANC announcement.
AirMap has also been rumored to be preparing a release that will allow commercial pilots to request instant authorization, and there may be at least one other company preparing a LAANC release.
Want to learn more about instant airspace authorizations via LAANC from Skyward? Sign up for their upcoming webinar on Thursday, November 9 at 10am PST.
Will I Have to Pay to Use LAANC?
Although this information was not included in the announcement made by Skyward, the information we’ve been given is that LAANC will be run by private companies who will collect a fee for providing their services.
Which means that whether it’s Skyward, AirMap, or someone else, you will probably be paying for the fast-tracked services LAANC provides.
LAANC is a huge step forward for the drone industry, but there are lots of questions right now about what the future looks like for airspace authorizations.
To make all of this uncertainty more concrete, we’ll list some of the top questions we’ve been seeing pop up in our community:
- Will the free, manual airspace authorization approval process remain in place once all controlled airspace has been covered by LAANC, or will the current manual process be phased out?
- Related to the above, will other areas of FAA authority, like Part 107 waivers, also eventually be passed to private industries?
- What is the timeline for getting LAANC in place at all of the airports in the U.S.? Right now we expect 49 airports to be included by the end of 2017—but what about the others?
- Right now only three companies (that we know of) have been approved for instant authorizations. Will there be an approval process for other companies to join that list, or will those three hold a monopoly on instant authorizations?
- How much will it cost?
- To unpack the above question, will solopreneurs have to pay the same as big companies, and will people have to pay for an annual subscription to Skyward (or AirMap, etc.), or will they be able to just pay a la carte for instant airspace authorizations?
As you can see, there’s just a lot we don’t know.
The Motivation Behind LAANC—Both Safety and Efficiency
Although the slowness of airspace authorization requests is a big pain point for many commercial drone pilots, the FAA has made it clear that speeding things up for commercial operators is not the only driving motivator for the creation of LAANC.
For the FAA, LAANC is as much about safety as it is about efficiency.
In the Oct 11 Federal Register, the FAA stated that immediate implementation of LAANC is
…vital to the safety of the National Airspace System because it would (1) encourage compliance with 14 CFR 107.41 by speeding up the time to process authorization requests, (2) reduce distraction of controllers working in the Tower, and (3) increase public access and capacity of the system to grant authorizations.
– The FAA (from the Federal Register published on 10/11/2017)
Here are the 50 airports where LAANC is supposed to be implemented by the end of 2017, according to AirMap:
Note: Apparently one airport has been removed since this list was released, making the total count now 49.
Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
Miami International Airport
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Anchorage International Airport
Green Bay- Austin Straubel Int’l Airport
Reno- Tahoe International Airport
San Jose International Airport
Aberdeen Regional Airport
Watertown Regional Airport
Alexandria Municipal Airport
Bemìdji Regional Airport
Brookings Regional Airport
Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport
Chippewa County International Airport
Houghton County Memorial Airport
Devils Lake Regional Airport
Fergus Falls Municipal Airport
Fort Dodge Regional Airport
Fairmont Municipal Airport
Hastings Municipal Airport
Falls International Airport
Gogebic- Iron County Airport
Jamestown Regional Airport
Mason City Municipal Airport
Mitchell Municipal Airport
Worthington Municipal Airport
Pellston Regional Airport
Rhinelander- Oneida County Airport
Spencer Municipal Airport
Thief River Falls Regional Airport