Listen closely. Hear that? It’s opportunity – and it’s knocking.

Depending on how much you’re into drones, you’ve likely heard of the term LAANC. It stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. The purpose of the system is to automate approvals for drones to safely fly in controlled airspace near airports. It’s meant for both commercial pilots flying under Part 107 and recreational pilots under 49 US Code, Section 44809.

And with the drone sector scaling rapidly, the FAA is looking to ensure LAANC keeps pace.

DroneZone strikes again

We first got word that the FAA is looking for candidates to help expand this system via this Tweet:

And so we looked at a bit of the fine print.

Busy airspace, growing traffic

Regulators want to ensure that airspace remains safe. In addition to all of the many FAA rules governing manned aircraft, there’s a considerable chunk of legalese that covers the operation of drones. And many of those rules have been crafted to minimize any potential conflicts between drones and crewed aircraft, as well as drones and people or property on the ground.

Eventually, this whole process will be automated via a comprehensive UAS Traffic Management system, also known as UTM. And LAANC authorization is an integral part of that mix.

Who is the FAA looking for?

Well, it’s looking for UAS Service Providers (USS) who might have (or are creating) systems or apps that would help speed LAANC approvals. An FAA document explaining the onboarding process outlines the roles like this:

Prior to LAANC, the FAA used a manual approval process that was not scalable. Given that UAS usage is
expected to grow, the FAA determined that an automated process, such as LAANC, is necessary to handle the future volume of authorization requests.

The FAA is responsible for creating the basic framework of LAANC and the Application Program Interface (API). Through LAANC, USSs access UAS Facility Maps (UASFM), which provide the maximum altitudes in controlled airspace that sUAS operators can receive near real-time airspace authorizations for planned flights. Authorization requests submitted by sUAS operators are checked against the UASFMs and if at or below the maximum altitude (and in accordance with all other legal provisions), LAANC will automatically approve the authorization request in near real-time. USSs develop applications (web-based and/or mobile) that enable sUAS operators to make authorization requests, receive responses to such requests, and receive other communication from the FAA regarding planned operations.

So you’re interested. Now what?

Not surprisingly, there’s a timeline to all this, with some very specific deadlines. Here’s an FAA graphic outlining the schedule:

The application process is already under way, with a deadline of June 4 (which will be here before you know it). At a later stage, applicants will be asked to take part in a review and – if they make it that far – demonstrate their app or web-based application.

You can get the basic overview of the process here. And if you’re ready to dive in, there’s a PDF with application instructions here. Good luck!

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