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FAA makes it easy for drone hobbyists to fly in controlled airspace

It has opened near-instant approval to recreational pilots.

Remus Kotsell via Getty Images
Remus Kotsell via Getty Images
Mariella Moon
Mariella Moon|@mariella_moon|July 24, 2019 10:33 AM

It's now much easier to ask for permission to fly drones in controlled airspace even if you're only doing it for fun. The FAA is giving recreational drone pilots access to the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) system -- the result of its collaboration with the industry that automates the application and approval for airspace authorizations. In the past, you've had to obtain permission from the FAA as a hobbyist the slow way if you want to fly near airports and other controlled locations. This update means you can now get near-instant permission from the agency.

As DJI notes, this will give you quick access to around 600 airports' airspace, so long as you intend to fly at 400 feet and below. The LAANC system can identify controlled airspace and grant immediate approvals once you choose the area you want to fly in. It will then provide that information to the FAA's Air Traffic Control facilities.

While the FAA has several publicly available LAANC service providers, DJI is recommending Kittyhawk, which provides free access to it through its app. By giving people free and easy access to the system, the company is hoping to encourage hobbyists to consider professional opportunities with drones.

Kittyhawk founder Josh Ziering said in a statement:

"The American drone industry needs a strong supply of drone innovators, entrepreneurs and hands-on pilots to continue its rapid growth. Drones are helping businesses, nonprofits, governments and researchers do their work better, faster, safer and cheaper, and accelerating those benefits requires a steady pipeline of talented drone enthusiasts who turn their recreational curiosity into a profession. Giving recreational drone pilots a free and easy way to access the nation's controlled airspace is a way to help ensure America achieves all the benefits that drones can offer."

Update: We changed the headline to clarify that this applies to "controlled" airspace, not to "restricted" airspace.

FAA makes it easy for drone hobbyists to fly in controlled airspace