On March 6, 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the nationwide expansion of its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) to 500 more airports, and include 300 air traffic control facilities as well as open up 78,000 miles of previously restricted airspace to commercial drone flights. Under FAA Part 107 drone regulations, operators must secure approval from the FAA to operate in any airspace controlled by an air traffic facility. Last November, the FAA deployed LAANC to determine the feasibility for fully automated solutions to this authorization (through data-sharing in LAANC). LAANC offers a process for drone flight authorizations in only five steps and applications can be processed in a manner of seconds (in most cases). Previously the waiver process was entirely manual and required 19 steps (and at least 90 days lead time). Based on the success of the test LAANC launch last year, the FAA will conduct this new, larger beta test this year, allowing greater participation across the country.

Airmap, Project Wing, Rockwell Collins and Skyward are currently the only service providers for LAANC. The FAA is considering new partners and applications for those providers interested in partnering with the FAA for LAANC must submit an application to the FAA by May 16, 2018. In conjunction with these service providers, LAANC uses airspace data provided through FAA UAS facility maps, which show the maximum altitude around airports where the FAA may authorize operations under Part 107 regulations. This is an important step towards unmanned air traffic management in our national airspace.

This will go into effect on April 30, 2018, and final deployment (after this beta test begins in April) is scheduled for September 13, 2018