Several years ago, the FAA determined that the drone new community needed a finished, easy-to-use safety awareness product with all the relevant regulatory information in a single place. The B4UFLY mobile application concept was designed to fulfill that need and to provide drone operators with situational awareness of the airspace where they were located or planned to fly. The goal was to produce an easy-to-use mobile application, designed for UAS users as young as 8 or 9 years old, that gives users a clear, color-coded answer within a tap or two about whether or not it is safe to fly in a certain location. It pulls FAA data about controlled, prohibited, restricted, and special use airspaces, temporary flight restrictions, and airports, in addition to safety guidance about flights near sporting events, critical infrastructure, and national parks, all into a single application.
The app’s logic then compares the user’s location, pulled from their device’s GPS location, to all of the potential airspace and airport restrictions and requirements to generate a flight status– red (do not fly), orange (action required), or yellow (proceed with caution). B4UFLY development started in the summer of 2014 as a prototype project. After many months of policy decisions, design development, and a successful beta test in 2015, the FAA Administrator announced the 2 release of an iOS version of the app at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV in January 2016; a full Android version followed in March.
It was clear then, as it is today, that recreational UAS operators not flying with a model aircraft club were considered to have the most significant lack of knowledge about airspace rules. Hence, the FAA made the decision to target B4UFLY to recreational flyers and programmed its logic to account for only hobbyist operational rules.
Since December 2015, more than 1 million people have registered with the FAA as model or hobbyist UAS operators, and over 175,000 commercial UAS have been registered. The need to provide educational instruction to this community of flyers continues to grow. While the FAA continues to refine airspace rules and requirements around all types of UAS operations, security concerns have grown in recent months about the possible threat posed by UAS flying where they should not be flying. These concerns only increase the need for federal regulators and security officials to be able to distinguish the careless and clueless flyers from true criminal or nefarious actors. Tools like B4UFLY play a critical role in providing safety awareness information in a format that is easily understood, and is literally in the operator’s hand. The FAA has identified a roadmap for the continued success of B4UFLY and its mission to educate the emerging UAS operator community.
The roadmap includes the following items:
- Stabilize and improve the performance of the application
- Stabilize and improve data source acquisition as data sources evolve
- Employ open source methodologies wherever possible
- Improve the user experience through updates and enhancements
- Expand on the application feature set to provide enhanced functionality to end users
The primary objective of this RFI and for the B4UFLY program is to develop a partnership or partnerships between the FAA and private entities (commercial, non-profit, academic, or other) that will leverage open source methodologies to improve the B4UFLY application. Further improvements in the program should align with the FAA’s strategic priorities as well as incorporate recommendations from partners. Ultimately, the partnership could result in joint third-party application(s) that would comply with FAA policies and guidance.
The FAA recognizes that there is a range of partnership models that could be adopted. The FAA does not have a pre-conceived notion of what such a partnership would look like, or how such a partnership could be structured and is soliciting information on options and recommendations from private entities (PEs) who may be interested in partnering with the FAA on this opportunity.
Solicitation Number: 30760
Response deadline: 31 August 2018
Issuing agency: Federal Aviation Administration