FAA approves 9 new LAANC service providers

October 1, 2018  - By
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FAA also warns about drones interfering with public safety.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced nine new partners to its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) initiative, a collaboration between the FAA and the drone industry that provides near real-time processing of airspace authorizations for Part 107 drone operators nationwide who fly in controlled airspace.

Following the FAA’s successful prototype, the initiative was simultaneously opened to additional air traffic control facilities and to new industry partners. The five-month onboarding process that began in April resulted in nine new LAANC partners — Aeronyde, Airbus, AiRXOS, Altitude Angel, Converge, DJI, KittyHawk, UASidekick and Unifly.

The nine join five companies — AirMap, Harris Corp., Project Wing, Skyward and Thales Group — that have already met the technical and legal requirements to provide LAANC Services.

LAANC uses airspace data, including UAS facility maps, which shows the maximum altitude around airports where the FAA may authorize operations under Part 107 in controlled airspace. The program gives drone operators the ability to interact with industry developed applications and obtain near real-time authorization from the FAA.

LAANC, a foundation for developing the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management System (UTM), is now available at nearly 300 FAA air traffic facilities across the country, covering approximately 500 airports.

The FAA next year will accept applications from parties interested in becoming LAANC service providers from Jan. 7 to Feb. 8 and from July 8 to Aug. 9. This is not a standard government acquisition; there is no Screening Information Request (SIR) or Request for Proposal (RFP) related to this effort.

Interested parties can find information on the application process here.

FAA targets UAS violators for enforcement

In a different announcement, the FAA said that drone pilots who interfere with fighting wildfires, law enforcement efforts, or other first responders such as medical flights  now are more likely to face serious civil penalties, even for first-time offenses.

Deterring interference with first responders is critical as drone use expands exponentially. Firefighting aircraft trying to contain a wildfire have to suspend flights when a drone enters the area to avoid a possible mid-air collision. A drone flying over a crime scene or accident site can hamper police or medical aircraft operations.

Ultimately, interference by a drone can cost lives.

The FAA has provided guidance for agency personnel who handle possible drone violations to refer all cases involving interference with first responders to the FAA Chief Counsel’s office for possible enforcement action.

In July 2016, Congress authorized the FAA to impose a civil penalty of not more than $20,000 for anyone who operates a drone and deliberately or recklessly interferes with wildfire suppression, law enforcement, or emergency response efforts.

Under FAA guidance, inspectors generally use non-enforcement methods, including education, for correcting unintentional violations that arise from factors such as flawed systems, simple mistakes, or lack of understanding.

However, given the potential for direct and immediate interference with potentially life-saving operations where minutes matter, offenders will immediately be considered for enforcement actions. Enforcement actions can include revocation or suspension of a pilot certificate, and up to a $20,000 civil penalty per violation.

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