FAA provides more access to airspace to fly drones

May 23, 2019  - By

More than 100 control towers and airports have been added to the hundreds of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic facilities and airports that currently use the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability (LAANC) system.

LAANC is a collaboration between the FAA and industry that directly supports the safe integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the nation’s airspace.

LAANC expedites the time it takes for a drone pilot to receive authorization to fly under 400 feet in controlled airspace. By adding contract towers to the number of LAANC-enabled facilities, drone pilots will have access to more than 400 towers covering nearly 600 airports.

In less than two years, LAANC has provided fast access to controlled airspace for more than 100,000 flights, according to Matt Fanelli, director of strategy at Skyward.

Image: Skyward

Image: Skyward

“People have been asking the FAA to add more airports and today, 109 contract towers have now been added to LAANC.” Skyward has updated its 2019 LAANC Facilities Guide so that UAV pilots can easily reference airports near them that will be adding this service.

Contract towers are air traffic control towers that are staffed by employees of private companies rather than by FAA employees. 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.

The expansion to more than 100 contract towers means the FAA has further increased drone pilots’ access to controlled airspace safely and efficiently.

LAANC is used by commercial pilots who operate under the FAA’s small drone rule (PDF) (Part 107). The FAA is upgrading LAANC to allow recreational flyers to use the system and in the future, recreational flyers will be able to obtain authorization from the FAA to fly in controlled airspace.

For now, recreational flyers who want to operate in controlled airspace may only do so at fixed sites.

Featured image: iStock.com/valio 84sl, via FAA

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.