Skyward approved by FAA to give drone operators access to low altitude airspace

The Federal Aviation Administration has approved Skyward to give commercial drone operators instant access to controlled airspace with its new Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC). The programme will roll out starting with Cincinnati International Airport (CVG), Reno (RNO), San Jose (SJC), and Lincoln (LNK), among others. The FAA has said that it will include 49 airports by the end of the year, with more going live by early 2018.

LAANC will enable businesses to access airspace that previously required the submission of a manual request for authorization, and it will automate the approval process, reducing the wait time from months to seconds.

As one of 12 members of the LAANC working group, Skyward helped the FAA develop this capability.

According to the company:

“Though the release of Part 107 significantly lowered the barrier to entry for companies that want to operate drones commercially, the rule also created an operational hurdle for companies in urban areas, especially for early adopters who had previously coordinated directly with local air traffic control. To give you an idea of the logistical challenge the airspace authorization process has posed for businesses in big cities, take a look at the airspace in the U.S. cities with the biggest construction markets and the biggest media markets.”

“Based on customer feedback, we know most of their jobs are in controlled airspace and getting access to fly in these areas is one of their largest business pain points,” said Skyward co-president Mariah Scott. “Operators have had to wait 60-90 days to receive authorization under the existing system. Now, with Skyward and LAANC, enterprises can get approval to fly in just two clicks. With this hurdle gone, we can expect to see substantial adoption of drone technology at the enterprise level.”

“This is a stepping stone for UAS traffic management, and the FAA has been visionary in deploying LAANC as a meaningful step forward,” said Skyward strategy director Matt Fanelli.

In the Oct 11 Federal Register, the FAA stated that immediate implementation of LAANC is “vital to the safety of the National Airspace System because it would (1) encourage compliance with 14 CFR 107.41 by speeding up the time to process authorization requests (2) reduce distraction of controllers working in the Tower, and (3) increase public access and capacity of the system to grant authorizations.”

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