FAA expands LAANC more airspace access for drones

The US Federal Aviation Administration is to expand the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) programme to more than 100 new control towers and airports.

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The LAANC programme has been developed to alleviate the burden of a lengthy manual authorisation process for both regulators and pilots. Through a growing list of technology partners, drone pilots can request authorisation to fly in restricted airspace in near real-time. The latest roll-out continues the expansion of coverage for LAANC, which currently covers about 600 airports.

The 100 control towers and airports will be added to the hundreds of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic facilities and airports that currently use the LAANC system.

The FAA said that by adding contract towers to the number of LAANC-enabled facilities, drone pilots will have access to more than 400 towers covering nearly 600 airports. Contract towers are air traffic control towers that are staffed by employees of private companies rather than by FAA employees.

The announcement comes on the heels of the implementation of new rules for recreational fliers, which will prohibit flight in restricted airspace around airports except at identified flying fields. This arrangement is a temporary fix until the LAANC programme can be updated to accommodate recreational pilots, at which time they will be able to request authorisation through the same process used by commercial drone pilots.