The FAA has expanded the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) testing program to increase access for non-recreational drone pilots into certain controlled airspace around specifically designated airports. Approximately 600 airports are covered by the capability. LAANC, now in beta testing, is designed to directly support unmanned aerial system (UAS) integration into controlled airspace under 400 feet agl near airports.
Through automated applications, drone pilots can apply for an airspace authorization; if approved, pilots receive their authorization in near real time. LAANC is available only to drone pilots operating under the Small UAS Rule Part 107. To qualify under Part 107, pilots must have registered their drones and hold a remote pilot certificate. So-called recreational drone operations are limited to specific fixed sites.
Applicants can apply up to 90 days in advance of a flight. At press time, 14 companies have been approved to operate their drones under the LAANC program. Operators should note that the list of facilities taking part in LAANC will change during testing, including possibly the removal of airports that previously offered LAANC capability.