How to get Drone Flights Approved Near Airports with LAANC
Planning a drone shoot near an airport? We’ll show you how to quickly get airspace authorization approval with the new FAA LAANC program.
In this tutorial, we’re going to walk through the process of getting a fast FAA airspace authorization, which will allow you to fly your drone near an airport. (Legally!) And we’ll be doing all this through the FAA’s new LAANC program for Part 107 drone pilots.
This tutorial is geared toward drone pilots with a Part 107 license (also refereed to as a UAS Airman Certificate or Commercial Drone License.) Many of you may already know that the FAA requires pilots to get an Airspace Authorization if they are going to fly within five miles of any airport. (In short, you need to get approval from the FAA before flying near an airport.) This is because Part 107 pilots are only allowed to fly in Class G airspace. And the airspace around airports will usually be Class E, D, or higher.
The traditional FAA airspace authorization process takes 90-120 days to maybe approve your drone flight request. (I have had airspace authorizations take much longer.) Luckily though, that has all changed with the new FAA LAANC program.
Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC)
LAANC stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability, and it is a partnership between the FAA and drone service suppliers. The LAANC system allows Part 107 drone pilots to quickly check if the area they want to fly in is available for instant FAA airspace authorization approval. This can also be really handy if you get a client request to fly at a location near an airport. You can check that location on the FAA UAS Facility Map and see if that area has instant approval available — which can definitely speed up your coordination and flight planning with clients.
Instant airspace approval might sound amazing, but let’s actually walk-through the process of getting this approval with the new LAANC program. (Again, this is only for Part 107-licensed drone pilots.)
Check the FAA UAS Facility Map
The first thing you will want to check is the FAA UAS Facility Map. This is a really handy reference map that can let you know immediately if instant approval is available for your flight location.
Once you have located where you want to fly on the FAA UAS Facility map, we now need to go through one of the LAANC service suppliers in order to get our approval. (This is just a fancy way of saying, “Now we need to go to a website or app that works with LAANC and get our approval.”)
As of right now, there are already 14 approved LAANC Service Suppliers that offer the LAANC approval service. All of these, to my knowledge, are also free to use. We are going to use the service supplier Skyward.io.
Once you are on the Skyward.io website, you need to create a free account in order to use LAANC. (Just click “Get Started” in the top right corner of the web page.) From there, you will be able to map out flight locations and create drone operation plans that you can use for LAANC approval. Once you request a FAA Authorization on Skyward.io, you will receive an instant Notice of Authorization with a FAA Reference number. (Note that not all requests can be instantly approved by the FAA. The flight location, if the airport has LAANC capabilities in place, and flight altitude play a big role. Some requests may require up to a week or so for approval.)
Here are a few quick reference links to keep around for your next drone shoot.
- FAA LAANC Program Information
- FAA UAS Facility Map
- Skyward.io (Free account sign up)
- FAA Drone Zone
- How to get a Part 107 Drone License
Looking for more info on working with drones? Check out these articles.