Back in May, the FAA wiped a lot of airspace for modelers right off the map. Though heavy-handed, this was a temporary measure. Later this month, the FAA plans to open LAANC for recreational flights—giving us back much of the airspace we lost, under a different arrangement.
LAANC—pronounced “lance”— is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. It was built as a way for corporations such as DJI and Amazon to be able to communicate directly and in an automated way with air traffic control. Various corporate partners and the FAA worked together to develop it, and it has now been deployed in many airports across the United States. Commercial pilots have been using the system to register flights and get authorization in controlled airspace since April of 2018. Going forward, recreational flights in controlled airspace will require authorization through the LAANC system as well.
What Can I Expect?
While nobody knows for sure what recreational use of LAANC will look like, we’re hearing it will be simpler than the existing setup for commercial flights. All of this is subject to change, but this is roughly what you can expect.
You’ll need an account with a provider. There’s a list of providers on the FAA’s page about LAANC and the FAA is supposed to be shipping its own app. You’ll log in to one of these systems to set up a flight plan. This plan will include:
- The area of operation
- Date and times of the flights
- Names and phone numbers of the operators involved
You won’t need to get authorization for every pack you fly individually—just mark out the overall time you’ll be flying. Flights can be scheduled up to 90 days in advance, and block out up to 12 hours at a time. If you flight is within certain parameters, (for example, under the published altitude limit in each space,) then the flight plan may be automatically approved. Otherwise, it’ll be sent to the FAA and/or the nearby control tower for approval.
Pilots were understandably frustrated by the restrictions put in place in May, but the July launch of LAANC is beating many industry experts’ expectations. This may be a sign that the future of our hobby isn’t quite as dire as we’ve been led to believe. Perhaps the FAA is listening after all.