The FAA recently enacted new drone laws requiring all flights to receive airspace authorization within controlled airspace. Commercial pilots know what this is all about, but hobby pilots like you may now be restricted from flying a toy in your backyard.
At announcement, the FAA did not have a method to actually receive the airspace authorization. That is now fixed, you can get LAANC clearance through apps like DJI and Airmap.
Do you need airspace authorization?
The best way to identify your drone airspace needs is to open the FAA’s B4UFly app. The very newly refreshed app shows your location and all relevant airspace restrictions you need to be aware of. Best of all, they cleaned up the interface, it used to be confusing and overwhelming, looking like it was impossible to fly your drone.
While the FAA’s app is the closest thing to perfect for identifying airspace, it cannot help you request authorization for your flight, if needed. For that, the FAA recommends Kittyhawk. Kittyhawk maps power the B4UFly app, so it’s pretty safe to use their app as well to see your airspace requirements.
We still fall back to Airmap for our airspace mapping needs. We like that Airmap easily differentiates between commercial and hobby operations, as we do both, and it offers LAANC authorizations for each. They’ve also partnered with an insurance company, so you can assign coverage to your flights right then and there as well. Lastly, Airmap was one of the first to show local air traffic information while you are in operation, not just drone traffic, but manned aircraft and more.
I need authorization, now what?
As we first write this in 2019, there are very few tools available to acquire authorization for your hobby flight. As noted above, the FAA recommends the Kittyhawk app and we use the Airmap app. There are others, but we haven’t had the chance to test them out yet, we’ll add more as we go.
The best technique to acquire LAANC authorization is to go to your desired flight location, open the app and request clearance for your flight.
The exact process differs by app, but the concept is simple, tap the button to get the process started, answer some questions about your operation and then await approval. We have never had to wait any longer than 30 seconds for automated LAANC approval ourselves, usually clear to fly within 10 seconds.
All of the screenshots you see are from Airmap. At this time, the KittyHawk app crashes on startup on all three devices I’ve tried it on. In fact, it completely crashed my newest phone. I’m not saying to avoid KittyHawk, it’s a good experience, just let this be the lesson to have both apps installed, in case one fails at any point.
Note: You may need to register a phone number with the service(s) and confirm that you own the number before you can gain clearance. This is usually a simple text message authorization thing, nothing you haven’t seen before.
Now that your flight is logged, and you’ve received the appropriate authorization, go fly your drone. It is crucial that you keep your drone within the parameters you outlined for your authorization. We all know that the rules are more strict than they usually need to be, but safety has to come first, and the rules are there for a reason.
If you need to fly outside of the initial parameters, there is no logical adjustment tools at this time, simple re-submit for a new flight operation.
Now, go fly!