The FAA predicts 835,000 commercial drones and 1.4 million recreational drones will be in use by 2023, significantly increasing the number of unmanned aircraft that will coexist with manned aircraft in the airspace.
As more drones take flight, it becomes critical to follow the airspace rules and regulations. But the rules depend on your mission. For example, recreational users have a fairly short list of rules to follow. In a nutshell: Register your drone. Fly under 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace. Avoid controlled airspace near airports. And keep your done within line of sight. Easy enough.
On the other hand, the rules for commercial drone operators are a bit more complex. You’re required to become a certified drone pilot and follow the FAA’s Part 107 rules. But many commercial pilots need to fly in controlled airspace and operate outside of the Part 107 limitations to complete their missions. That’s where LAANC and Part 107 waivers come into the picture.
Don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. Here’s what you need to know to fly commercial drones.
What is the FAA’s LAANC?
Under Part 107, drone pilots planning to fly in controlled airspace near U.S. airports must get FAA permission via the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (aka LAANC). LAANC gives drone pilots near real-time authorization to access controlled airspace at or below 400 feet while providing air traffic controllers visibility into when and where drones are operating.
How do I access the FAA’s LAANC?
Commercial drone operators can access LAANC through UAS Service Suppliers like SkyGrid. These companies are approved by the FAA to provide LAANC services and help automate the application process for airspace authorizations.
For example, SkyGrid is simplifying the flight approval process by integrating LAANC directly into our flight planning system. That means drone operators can seamlessly plan their mission, ensure their flight meets all LAANC criteria, and get auto-approval in controlled airspace. SkyGrid also provides Part 107 Further Coordination so operators can fly above the designated altitude ceiling in a UAS facility map, up to 400 feet.
What is a Part 107 waiver, and do I need one?
Keep in mind that LAANC is strictly for approving flights classified under the current Part 107 regulations. If your organization needs to operate drones outside of these regulations, a Part 107 waiver will be required. For example, some organizations may need to fly drones over people or fly drones beyond visual line of sight in order to complete their mission. Other organizations may need to fly above 400 feet or fly drones at night. If that’s the case, you’ll need to request a Part 107 waiver from the FAA.
How do I get approved for a Part 107 waiver?
Organizations can request a Part 107 wavier via the FAA’s DroneZone application. When applying, include details about your operation, drone capabilities, and pilot experience. Also be prepared to explain how you’ll minimize risks when operating drones outside of the Part 107 regulations. Ultimately, the FAA wants to ensure you’re equipped to manage unforeseen circumstances in the airspace. They’ll be looking for details about the technology, training, equipment, and personnel you have in place to operate drones safely and securely for every flight.
How do I set up a safe drone operation?
That’s difficult to do without the right technology. Many organizations will need a system to understand the airspace, generate the safest route, and avoid new hazards or environmental changes that may occur inflight. Those with a bigger drone operation will also need technology to address maintenance needs at scale and ensure their drones are always safe to fly. SkyGrid will make it easier for organizations to safely navigate the complex airspace and optimize their drone fleet.
How do I stay compliant once I’m approved to fly?
The FAA shares airspace data with UAS Service Suppliers like SkyGrid to help drone operators stay compliant with regulations. This data includes airport facility maps, airspace classifications, temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), and notices to airmen (NOTAMs).
However, there are several other factors drone operators need to consider for a safe and secure flight. These factors include weather conditions like wind, turbulence, and precipitation; location data like terrain, buildings, and roads; and vehicle data like battery life and maintenance requirements. To avoid potential accidents, drone operators should also consider activity on the ground below through census data and insights from news channels and social media.
SkyGrid is fueling its system with these data sources to help drone operators minimize risks and generate the optimal route every time. Our goal is to safely integrate all unmanned aircraft in the global airspace, which requires the most up to date information from trusted sources.
Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months!