NEWS Alert

FAA’s UAS Automated Flight Approval Expanded to 500 Airports

In an effort to further integrate drones and other unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that testing of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) will expand to 300 air traffic facilities serving a total of 500 airports. This program, begun in November 2017, integrates Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS) through enhanced maps and a digitized authorization system.

Before LAANC, operators wishing to fly in controlled airspace under 400 feet had to receive an airspace authorization directly from the FAA. This involved a lengthy 19-step manual application process that could take up to 90 days. LAANC allows operators to receive close to real-time airspace authorizations. The system decreases wait time and allows for expedited operational planning.

LAANC works by enabling access to controlled airspace near airports through airspace data provided by FAA UAS Facility Maps. These maps show the maximum altitudes flyable by drones around airports where LAANC is offered. The maps are provided by the FAA to approved UAS Service Suppliers, industry members who have developed applications that allow Drone pilots to access LAANC capability. Currently the following companies have entered into agreements with the FAA to provide LAANC Services: Airmap, Project Wing, Rockwell Collins and Skyward.

LAANC applications incorporate other airspace information, including temporary flight restrictions, airspace data and NOTAMS to visualize a complex airspace and ensure that each granted authorization adheres to safety regulations.

The LAANC process can be broken down into five steps:

  1. FAA provides airspace data to UAS Service Suppliers through the FAA UAS Data Exchange.
  2. Using the data, UAS Service Suppliers create interactive maps of controlled airspace under 400 feet.
  3. Drone pilots request digital airspace authorizations through the UAS Service Supplier application.
  4. UAS Service Supplies send authorized information back to the FAA through the FAA UAS Data Exchange.
  5. Air Traffic Control Facilities use approved authorization data provided by the UAS Service Supplier to view where and when a scheduled UAS operation will take place up to approved altitudes within controlled airspace. Based on this data, Air Traffic Control Facilities can approve or deny operations.

Beyond a decrease in waiting time, the data supplied by LAANC allows Air Traffic Controllers to see where planned UAS operations will take place. This mitigates risk by ensuring that other aircraft do not operate near the drone.

The Wicks Group (TWG) has broad experience with FAA regulations and initiatives. For more information on UAS operations please contact Roncevert Almond at or 202-457-7790.

The Wicks Group - 601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, South Building, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20004 - T: +1.202.457.7790 /