For those of you looking to fly your drone in the United States, there are a few rules you need to follow. One of the most difficult to figure out is where you can fly legally, and how to get authorization to do so. There are airspace maps you can look at, then get authorization through a tool called LAANC.
There are only a handful of apps that can help you request airspace authorization through LAANC to fly in controlled airspace, and here they are.
October 2020 update: We’re excited to see that the FAA has expanded your access to LAANC. You can now obtain “instant” LAANC authorization from 537 facilities and 726 airports. That still only covers a little over 80% of the controlled airspace of the country, the remaining areas have to use the manual authorization tools available on the FAA website.
Do I need authorization to fly my drone?
The simple answer is that, yes, if you plan to fly your drone in controlled airspace, you will need authorization to fly before you take off. We use a tool called LAANC to request and receive the authorization, it’s fast, fairly easy, and free. LAANC is the back-end technology, you can submit a paper request to the FAA, but the automated system will require an app.
Before you download an app, you can check out our airspace map, powered by Airmap, to see how things are in your area. The interactive map will show you where you can and cannot fly. Of course, the Airmap app, which is in the list below, offers the same research, but also offers the tools to get authorization, so this map is simply a reference point.
Approved LAANC service providers
According to the FAA, the following companies have satisfied technical requirements and entered into agreement with the FAA to offer Part 107 commercial authorization, and some have been cleared to offer hobby flight clearance as well.
Let’s start with the entities approved for hobby pilots.
Entities cleared to offer you LAANC authorization for Part 107 operations.
- Altitude Angel
- Thales Group
Finally, there are a number of entities on the list that can manage LAANC authorizations, but are not for the public.
- Harris Corporation
- Project Wing
These last entities listed either use LAANC for their own operations, or are technically compliant, but not yet certified to offer services to the public.
Just like the FAA, we are not certifying that all of these services will work, and their inclusion on this list does not indicate our endorsement. Being completely truthful with you, we’ve used both Airmap and Kittyhawk, but none of the others. We really like Airmap, and we respect that the FAA officially endorses Kittyhawk, we’re happy to recommend these two services.
The drone landscape is an interesting one. On one hand, manned aircraft have much stricter rules to follow, and have to submit much more detailed flight plans before they can take to the sky. On the other, the need for any official clearance at all is bothersome to hobby pilots that just want to fly a ‘toy’ in the back yard.
We think airspace authorization is a good thing. We don’t mind accountability, we have nothing to hide ourselves, and it is a deterrent for those that might desire to be unsafe. Aside from that, there is a sense of certainty you can enjoy when you have documented authorization to fly in an area — The FAA won’t clear you to fly somewhere they do not want you to fly.
Please do be aware of the rules on the ground while you fly. The FAA, through LAANC, is giving you clearance for the sky, they do not have authority over what’s on the ground. Do not trespass, make sure there are no ground rules against flying drones in the area, and be smart about where you fly. Check out the No Drone Zone for more details.
Check out the full list of FAA authorized partner companies for LAANC authorization: FAA LAANC overview and partners
Also check out the list of airports that are participating in LAANC. These are the areas you’ll be able to operate: FAA LAANC airports
Finally, there is a major app missing from this list, one day we’ll ask the FAA why their own app, B4UFly, does not support LAANC approvals. For now, stick to one of the above, and as always, fly safe.