FAA Adds More Airports To Automated Drone Flight Authorization System

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More than 100 more airports have joined the beta test of a program that authorizes drone flights in controlled airspace in near-real time.

The Federal Aviation Administration expects to see more drones flying around airports in the near future, but that’s OK.

The FAA announced a 20 percent expansion in the number of airports using the Low Altitude Authorization and Capability, or LAANC, an experimental system for managing and authorizing drone traffic in near-real time. The LAANC system is currently in beta, being tested at some 600 airports, with the addition of 109 locations announced Thursday.

The LAANC system is the first public-private partnership under FAA’s Unmanned Aerial System Data Exchange. The project creates an automated system for drone pilots to obtain authorization to fly in controlled airspaces, namely at low altitudes around airports.

“When a drone pilot submits a request through a LAANC USS, the request is checked against multiple airspace data sources in the FAA UAS Data Exchange,” including flight restrictions, important notices and other planned drone flights, according to the FAA. “If approved, pilots receive their authorization in near-real time.”

In turn, air traffic control gains a reliable view of when and where drones will be operating in their airspace.

Authorizations through this system are only valid for 12 hours and cannot be combined with other authorizations, such as a waiver to fly at night or out of line-of-sight. Those authorizations can be obtained through another FAA program called DroneZone.

At this time, the automated registration system is only available to drone operators with a remote pilot certificate registered with the FAA. The agency plans to expand the LAANC program to include recreational flyers in the near future.