Updated: August 17, 2021, 7:53 am
The FAA has begun near real-time approval of night airspace authorization requests through its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) platform, negating the need for special waivers. Here’s how you can get LAANC authorization for nighttime drone operations almost instantaneously…
Mandatory night flying training by FAA
First things first, only Part 107 pilots who have completed required FAA training/testing and have equipped their drone with anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles can submit authorization requests for night operations in controlled airspace. The FAA doesn’t allow recreational flyers to operate in controlled airspace at night.
The FAA drone rules for night operations came into effect on April 21, 2021. So, if you took your Part 107 test before April, and haven’t gotten a chance to familiarize yourself with nighttime operation rules yet, you will need to complete a mandatory FAA training module.
The training – a series of mini-quizzes, videos, and text slides – is free and can be accessed under Recurrent Training Courses for Drone Pilots on the FAA Safety Team website. Look for Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent Non-Part 61 Pilots (ALC-677).
Right now, three FAA-approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS) – Aloft, Wing, and airspacelink – are authorized to provide night LAANC services.
Here, we will walk you through the process required by one of these USS: Aloft.
How Part 107 drone pilots can get night LAANC authorization through Aloft
Once you have completed the training and are qualified for night flying, download the Aloft (formerly Kittyhawk) drone and airspace management app on your smartphone.
After submitting your details and verifying the phone number, scroll and navigate to the controlled airspace where you want to fly at night.
Click on the button on the bottom left corner to see airspace and weather information, including the permissible altitude for authorization. If you don’t plan to fly above the mentioned altitude, getting the LAANC auto-approval should be fairly simple.
Now, click on the “+Add” button at the bottom of the screen and select “Request LAANC Authorization.”
The screen should now give you a prompt, asking if you are requesting permission as a “Part 107 Commercial” operator or “Section 44809 Recreational” flyer. Choose the former and you will be taken back to the map to select the operational region. You can tap and hold on the corner buttons of the selected region to expand or contract the airspace area you need to access.
The app then asks what altitude you want to fly at. Retain the auto-approval level and click next. You can always choose a higher altitude, but in that case, getting authorization may not be as swift as near real-time.
Next, the app will ask when and for how long you want to fly. Remember, you can request authorization up to 90 days in advance and for a maximum duration of 12 hours. Also, while earlier, only daylight hours could be selected here, now you can choose night hours, too.
Click next to see the pre-check results that would detail the airspace class, authorizing body, as well as start and end times. Once you’ve confirmed that the date, time, and duration are correct, go to the last step to read the terms of LAANC operations and submit your information to the FAA.
After you have clicked agree and submit, you should receive a text message with the authorization approval on your phone within seconds. Make sure to read the text to see if there are any additional conditions that you’re required to follow.
You can have up to five overlapping night LAANC authorizations (within 100 miles) to help ensure coverage and compliance.
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