The new LAANC airspace approval system goes live!


What is LAANC? Its the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, a system which allows remote pilots to request airspace authorizations in controlled airspace. The FAA announced that the last region of the country, the upper midwest, went live this week. Prior to the implementation of LAANC, commercial drone pilots had to apply for authorizations though the FAA’s web based portal (Done Zone). This process took a minimum of 90 days, meaning that commercial drone pilots often missed deadlines and lost clients.

LAANC promises to provide quick access to controlled airspace near airports through near real-time processing of airspace authorizations, as long as the request is below approved altitudes in controlled airspace. Thats the good news. The bad news is that not every airport with controlled airspace is participating.  In NE Wisconsin for example, Appleton (ATW) and Oshkosh (OSH) are not on the list. Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB) is.  At the time of this post, if you want to fly commercially in the controlled airspace of an airport that is not participating in LAANC, you’ll need to apply for an authorization the old fashioned way. The FAA published a list of participating airports.

The FAA has contracted with several service providers to provide commercial drone pilots access to the service.  One of the most popular is Skyward.io which offers free access for up to 50 flights.  Drone pilots needing more than 50 airspace authorizations will need to look at a paid subscription.  

The FAA’s facility map is one of the best free tools out there for you to determine if your proposed flight takes place in controlled airspace. The website has a searchable interface which accepts street addresses, making it fairly easy to find the exact spot of your commercial shoot.  I have created a mission planning page for commercial drone pilots but you’ll need to understand how to read and interpret sectional flight charts. 

While this system isn’t perfect, its real progress and should make life a lot easier for commercial drone pilots.  

(If you would like more details on obtaining airspace approval or mission planning, please consider signing up for one of my classes.)  

Example of a facility map. The numbers indicate the maximum altitude allowed for unmanned aircraft.


About Bill Bongle

Bill Bongle is a retired police captain with over 30 years experience in public safety. He owns and operates the only drone repair center in the State of Wisconsin and is the founder of the Green Bay Area Drone User Group.