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.
Update: Added Wing OpenSky to the list. They can provide hobby and Part 107 LAANC authorization.
Coverage: You can obtain “instant” digital LAANC authorization in a little over 82% of the controlled airspace of the country, the remaining areas have to use the manual authorization tools available on the FAA website.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
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.
- Thales Group
There are also a number of entities that can manage LAANC authorizations for their own operations only, companies like Google’s Project Wing and Airbus. (Update, Project Wing has launched a public app, called OpenSky.)
Know before you fly: There are a number of drone laws you need to know before you take your fist flight
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there any other ways to get airspace authorization?
Aside from the noted LAANC automated approval, and the paper process alternative, there are no other ways to get direct authorization for a single flight. However, there are situations that can offer a blanket approval process. Your local approved community flying field may offer a blanket authorization for any craft to fly within its bounds – these are near-permanently approved flight areas for registered community members.
In addition to the hobby flight offerings, you may be able to fly under the authorization of government entities. For example, in the event of an emergency situation that gets a TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction,) there will be a command structure on the ground. If this command is given control of airspace, they can give you authorization to fly under their direct approval and for the purposes of providing them intelligence on the situation. If you’d like to get involved, talk to your local fire department today, establish the relationship before an emergency situation takes place.
Do I always have to get LAANC authorization for my flights?
Airspace authorization is limited to specific locations in the country. Check the airspace map to see what we mean, there are bubbles drawn on the map, those are the areas in which you need authorization, and yes, you will need to request authorization for every new flight operation. If you plan to fly in less congested classes of airspace, you may not even need approval before you fly. The rules of the sky still all apply, you’re just free to get started.
Does Remote ID have anything to do with LAANC authorization?
Not really, no. Remote ID will be a requirement for any flight, LAANC authorization is just permission to fly in populated areas. If you think of it like a car, Remote ID is comparable to a license plate, LAANC authorization is more like traffic control signs, limiting things like your speed and direction of travel. These things work together, but compliance for one has no bearing on your compliance for the other.
So, is Remote ID and Part 107 pilot’s license the same?
Again, these things relate, but are separate items. Remote ID is a function of your drone, Part 107 is a license that you have to obtain. Again, when compared to cars, Part 107 is your driver’s license, and Remote ID is, again, like your car’s license plate.
How does Remote ID work with airspace maps?
Ultimately, these two things are managed and controlled as separate systems. It is a superb resource to have an ADS-B receiver on hand, to be able to see all manned air traffic in your area, but drone Remote ID will not report up to ADS-B. The FAA has not specified that there will be an accessible ADS-B equivalent map for drone pilots using Remote ID, but they have mandated that Remote ID be receivable by consumer electronics. Most likely, you will carry a secondary phone or tablet with you with an app installed that can show local drone traffic. Hopefully a consumer app can combine ADS-B and Remote ID traffic into one for you, but we’ll have to wait to see what the industry provides.