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 LAANC Going Live on April 30th

Automated airspace authorizations are finally coming.

The long and clumsy process of obtaining airspace authorizations from the FAA has tormented remote pilots for 18 months. With the new LAANC process, drone operators will be able to receive instant authorizations online. The system has been operational under limited conditions for several months, but the FAA announced today (3/6/18) that LAANC would start official operations at the end of April.

Here are the scheduled release dates for the various regions:

  • April 30: South Central USA
  • May 24: Western North USA
  • June 21: Western South USA
  • July 19: Eastern South USA
  • August 16: Eastern North USA
  • September 13: Central North USA

Click here to visit the interactive map website.

Class E Authorizations - Demystified

The social media controversy sadly continues. Too many Remote Pilots don't understand when and if an Airspace Authorization is required where Class E is involved. This video gives you the definitive answer.

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LIVE Webinar -  Streamed on January 18, 2018

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Tower Inspections

Whether you are already flying as a Remote Pilot, or are preparing for your Part 107 exam, there is one topic that people keep getting wrong. Even some of the best-known test prep websites are teaching it wrong. This is likely the most misunderstood scenario in the commercial drone pilot world: maximum altitudes for tower inspections.

In the Part 107 regulations (107.51), it is common knowledge that Remote Pilots may generally fly no higher than 400 feet. Everyone knows this one. It is also a well-known exception that Remote Pilots may fly higher than 400 feet when flying within a 400 foot radius of a structure (maximum altitude: 400 feet higher than the top of the structure).

So far, so good. The confusion appears when drone pilots start to consider Class E airspace and the need for Airspace Authorizations.

Part 107 specifies certain classes of airspace (107.41) where an Airspace Authorization is required. In reference to Class E, the regulation clearly states that an Airspace Authorization is required to operate under Part 107 in Class E surface areas that are designated for an airport. (Almost all Class E surface areas ARE designated for airports.)

Class E airspace can start at the surface (dashed magenta outline), start at 700 feet AGL (shaded magenta outline), or at 1200 feet AGL (the default). Of these three, only the Class E surface areas require Authorizations. This is the fundamental point and the issue where the misconceptions begin.

No Airspace Authorizations are needed to operate in Class E that starts at 700 or 1200 feet AGL.

This brings us to the scenario. This exact one appeared on YouTube and Facebook in December, 2017, by a well-known test prep provider. Referring to the tower shown below, what is the maximum altitude you may fly when remaining within 400 feet of the tower?

The tower stands 889 feet above ground level. Class G airspace begins at the surface. Class E airspace starts at 1200 feet above the surface. The videos state that you may not fly higher than 1200 AGL during the tower inspection because an Authorization is required to fly in Class E. Thus, they gave the answer as 1200 feet AGL. THIS IS INCORRECT. (Only Class E surface areas require Authorizations.)

The correct answer to the question in this scenario is 400 feet above the top of the tower. This is 1289 feet AGL.


UAS Facility Maps Are Here

In what we hope will be the FAA's first move toward automation, the FAA has released its initial round of UAS Facility Maps. These show airspace grids with maximum altitudes and are intended to ease the job of seeking (and receiving) airspace authorizations. This first set of grids cover Class E surface areas.

At this point the grids are informational only. Each square shows a maximum altitude which the FAA finds acceptable for UAS operations. Click on a square and a box will appear showing the airport ID, airspace Class, and the lat/long defining a central point in that grid square. We believe that using this information, you will be more likely to successfully submit an Airspace Authorization request. The next set of grids is scheduled for a June 22 release and should include a mixture of Class B, C, and D grids. A third release is scheduled for August 17.


Click here to visit the interactive map website.


We believe that this will become the precursor to an automated system where you may click on a grid, agree to the default restrictions, and be granted a swift, if not immediate, approval or denial.