The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will begin rolling out instant airspace authorizations nationwide on April 30.
Roll out of the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) program will start in Southern Central USA later this month and is expected to be nationwide by September 13. LAANC gives drone pilots access to controlled airspace near airports through instant processing of authorizations below approved altitudes.
The LAANC capability is accessed through various apps approved by UAS Service Suppliers, including: Skyward, Airmap, Rockwell Collins, and Project X. Drone operators can process an application for airspace authorization within minutes through one of the apps, which is a great deal less painful than submitting a formal request to the FAA.
“The new LAANC program being rolled out is a huge boon to the insurance industry,” commented Nathan Stump, director of Product Marketing at Kespry, which operates drones in restricted airspace through the Airmap app. “If you were to fly a commercial drone under FAA regulations, you have to adhere to airspace rules. For example, you can’t fly within a certain perimeter of an airport or a specific government building and so on.
“Before LAANC, drone operators had to apply for waivers or authorization through the FAADroneZone. The FAA’s approval process can take months – sometimes up to 90 days – before a decision is made.”
Drones have a proven use case in catastrophe response. After storms or hurricane events they can be used for quick and efficient loss adjusting and data aggregation.
However, often during catastrophe events, the FAA will declare emergency airspace and ground drone operations for a time to avoid any potential interference with emergency and rescue operations. Insurers and loss adjusters may want to use drones to assess damage once the airspace blackout is lifted – but with the old rules they might have had to wait up to 90 days for authorization from the FAA if the catastrophe impacted a restricted area.
“LAANC is going to be hugely beneficial to the insurance industry because they will be able to get drones up and running in a controlled airspace almost instantly,” Stump told Insurance Business.
“Understanding airspace rules and regulations is vitally important. At Kespry, we spend a lot of time with our customers coaching them through airspace regulations and teaching them effective strategies on how to understand airspace rules and operate drones to their top efficiency.”
Instant airspace authorizations with LAANC were first piloted in November 2017 with just 50 participating airports. The program now has up to 500 participating US airports, which presents “huge opportunity” for commercial drone operators, Stump added.