Have you ever wanted to fly your drone near an airport? Well, there is a process you need to follow in order to get clearance. But not knowing where to even start can get kind of annoying, right?
Who do I need to talk to?
Should I reach out to the airport or the FAA… or someone else?
How long will it take for me to get approved?
Will I need to pay a fee to apply for clearance?
If you’ve asked yourself these questions, you’re not alone. The process of getting approval to fly close to an airport (or a similarly high-security area) can seem daunting.
But, once you know where to start and what steps to take, it’s not so bad.
Why do some areas require special approval for drone flight?
In the United States, the FAA’s Part 107 regulations classify two types of airspace: controlled vs. uncontrolled airspace.
Controlled airspace (Class A, B, C, D, and E) refers to the airspace in which Air Traffic Control (ATC) services are provided. The airspace surrounding large airports is usually Class B airspace, while smaller airports are usually surrounded by Class C, Class D, or Class E airspace. Drone pilots are required to get permission prior to flying in almost all controlled airspace.
Uncontrolled airspace (also known as Class G) is airspace where Air Traffic Control (ATC) services are not provided. You do not need to get permission to fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace.
What do I do if I need to get approval to fly near an airport?
Most airspace approvals go through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), also known as the UAS Data Exchange. LAANC is a partnership between the FAA and the “industry,” which allows you to request the authorization you need to fly in certain airspace.
LAANC gives drone pilots the opportunity to apply for approval to fly in controlled airspaces at or below 400 feet. Or, if you are flying your drone over a tower or building, you can fly up to 400 feet above the structure. LAANC also promotes awareness of where drone pilots are allowed to fly and gives air traffic professionals insight as to when and where drones are being flown.
When you submit an application to LAANC, the process is automated—which means that, if a request is approved, the pilot will receive that approval almost instantly.
Wondering how that’s possible? Well, according to the FAA, the system automatically checks sources to determine whether or not your request should be approved. These sources include:
- UAS Facility Maps
- Special Use Airspace Data
- Airports and Airspace Classes
- Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs)
- Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS)
LAANC has a network of UAS Service Suppliers that are able to provide LAANC services to drone pilots. Aeronyde, AirMap, Kittyhawk, and Skyward are just a few of the many UAS Service Providers to which drone pilots can submit LAANC applications.
What if the airspace I want to fly in does not allow LAANC approvals?
If the airspace you want to fly in isn’t covered by LAANC, you will need to go through a separate, manual application process. You can complete this process through FAADroneZone, which is where you register your drone, as well.
Our student support manager, Jorge, ended up going through the process of applying for a non-LAANC approval through FAADroneZone, and it took him fewer than 10 minutes. So the process shouldn’t be super time-consuming (as long as you don’t have a complicated airspace usage request).
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide on how to create a Part 107 Waiver/Authorization so that you can request access to the airspace you’d like to fly in:
- Go to the FAADroneZone website. If you don’t have an account, you’ll need to create one.
- Scroll down to the section entitled “Part 107 Waivers and Authorizations” and click “Create Part 107 Waiver/Authorization.”
- Select “Airspace Authorization” and click “Start Application.”
- Fill in your “Operation Title” — it can be as simple as “Bob’s Job,” or you can elaborate a bit more and title it something a little more specific.
- The “Responsible Party” section should automatically be filled out with your contact information. If for whatever reason it is not, just fill in the required information. Click “Next.”
- Under “Operation Parameters,” you’ll need to fill out information about the operation, including the start and end date, the time frame, proposed location and altitude, latitude and longitude coordinates for where you’re requesting access to fly. You’ll also need to provide the nearest airport, the class of airspace, and a description of what you’ll be doing.
- If you do not currently have any other existing or pending waivers related to this operation, you can click “No” under the “Relevant Existing Waivers” section. Click “Next.”
- Once you’ve reviewed your application and verified that the information you’ve provided is correct and accurate, you can click “Submit.”
- On the “Confirmation” screen, you can click “Manage Part 107 Waivers/Applications” to view other applications that you’ve submitted and to check their status.
See, that doesn’t seem so bad, right? Our Student Support Manager, Jorge, even created a video that will walk you through the entire process.
Whether you go through LAANC or FAADroneZone, we hope that this short guide helps you navigate the application process for flying your drone near an airport!
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or give us a call at 888-820-7205.