Drones

FAA expands automated airspace control for drones

drone at airport (Shutterstock.com) 

The Federal Aviation Administration is expanding its near real-time drone flight authorization system.

The Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability now includes air route traffic control centers in the western U.S., including Kansas City, Mo.; Houston and Ft. Worth, Texas; and Albuquerque, N.M.

FAA regulations require unmanned system operators flying aircraft at lower altitudes -- under 400 feet -- in airspace managed by an agency air traffic control facility to get formal permission before such operations.

The system provides near-real time processing of airspace authorizations for drone operators, as well as a more-detailed traffic picture of the controlled space. The services are based on a public/private partnership between FAA and industry service suppliers.

"What used to take weeks, now takes mere seconds," acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell said in a video press release.

Subsequent rollouts will continue through September, according to the agency’s web site, starting with other western FAA control regions before moving eastward.

The system is part of the agency's UAS Data Exchange umbrella, which aims to facilitate drone registration and help speed integration of the unmanned aircraft into the airspace used by traditional commercial and private manned aircraft.Last November, the FAA began testing the system at eight air route control centers, with the goal of ultimately covering 300 air traffic control facilities nationwide that monitor approximately 500 airports.

The agency also said it is looking for more agreements with industry service providers under the LAANC trial.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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