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FAA’s LAANC offers instant night flight approval for Part 107 commercial drone pilots

Onboard navigation systems are not the only thing in the aerial world increasingly benefitting from automated capacities. Now Part 107 certified drone pilots requesting approval for commercial night flights in restricted zones can receive quasi-real-time authorization from providers of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) processing services.

That and related changes arise from the September 30 expiration of a provisional arrangement inaugurated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in March. The previous procedure called for Part 107 certified drone pilots to obtain LAANC approval for commercial day flights in restricted areas, then subsequently secure a National Authorization stipulating night time operation. Practically speaking that often meant first getting a pair of automated LAANC okays for a period covering two days (one for each date) using web or app platforms; then obtaining the National Authorization for night time operation.

Now, those two steps are bundled in the same LAANC request, with responses to both virtually instantaneous.

Though the streamlined procedure was only formally announced by the FAA Thursday, it has been available since late August through a number of approved LAANC providers like Aloft,  Airspacelink, and Wing. But the changes involved are also accompanied by others that will give Part 107 certified drone pilots even more liberty of aerial movement. According to the announcement, for example, craft operators “will have more areas they can fly in since the FAA has divided the airspace into smaller segments.”

Of course, the price of increased freedom – and a streamlined, immediate request and approval setup for nighttime flights under 400 feet in restricted areas – requires some qualifying work up front. The service is limited to Part 107 certified commercial drone pilots who have also completed FAA night flight training, and have equipped their craft with anti-collision lights visible for at least three miles. Flights of recreational craft in restricted areas after dark remains forbidden.

For those qualified to request authorization for such missions, the process is relatively easy. Just download the app from one of the FAA’s approved LAANC service providers, select the controlled airspace involved, provide altitude details, and hit “add” to get a sub-menu containing data fields for LAANC requests.

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Avatar for Bruce Crumley Bruce Crumley

Bruce Crumley is journalist and writer who has worked for Fortune, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times, The Guardian, AFP, and was Paris correspondent and bureau chief for Time magazine specializing in political and terrorism reporting. He splits his time between Paris and Biarritz, and is the author of novel Maika‘i Stink Eye.