This week the FAA has approved nine new partners in its LAANC initiative, which enables drone pilots to get instant approval to fly in controlled airspace, such as within 5 miles of an airport.
LAANC stands for low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. It’s a collaboration between the FAA and the drone industry. Approved pilots will be able to apply for airspace authorization and receive a response within minutes, rather than the incredibly impractical 90 days it currently takes for commercial drone operators to receive approval. (We wrote more about these restrictions in our Flying a Drone guide).
In addition to near real-time authorization for controlled airspace around 500 airports, drone operators will also be able to request to fly in areas above the 400 foot ceiling.
DJI Approved for FAA LAANC Partnership
Most of the approved LAANC partners so far are industrial corporations, but one of them is DJI. What that means is that Part 107 holders who fly DJI drones (read: the majority of us out there), will soon be able to apply for LAANC approvals with their DJI accounts.
There’s not a lot of details yet, but this looks incredibly promising for anyone who flies DJI drones for filmmaking today. There are airports within 5 miles of many urban areas in the country, and until now, Part 107 users who want to comply with FAA restrictions have either completely avoided flying in those areas, or attempted the Kafka-esque puzzle of contacting air traffic control 3 months in advance of a flight.
While that kind of system is important to maintaining airport safety and keeping the hobbyists out of dangerous flight zones, it’s been a little frustrating for filmmakers who are somewhere between hobbyists and professional pilots. Getting drone footage is an expected piece of many video productions, but most filmmakers rarely know what they’re going to be shooting in 3 months, let alone in 3 days. And predicting weather and light conditions that far in advance is a bit absurd.
The one thing we’re a little concerned about is whether the program ends up being limited to only a handful of DJI enterprise partners, or it becoming a paid addition, possibly with additional testing and licensing. After all, DJI would be partly responsible for the actions of its users who receive LAANC approval through the DJI partnership. In the same way that anytime there’s a drone accident, DJI is forced to issue a statement.
Nevertheless we’re excited to see this development and look forward to hearing more about DJI’s partnership with FAA and LAANC.