LAANC Update: Refined Airspace Grids & Night Drone Authorizations – Skyward
I’m happy to announce that the next generation of the FAA’s LAANC is now live within the Skyward platform.
Now, in addition to requesting automated and near real-time access to controlled airspace through LAANC for daytime flights, Skyward customers can do the same for operations at night. Additionally, refined LAANC airspace grids now allow greater flexibility in how altitude limits are defined for a given area. This means that drone pilots can likely request higher altitude LAANC authorizations in many portions of controlled airspace.
What is LAANC?
LAANC is a partnership between the FAA and approved LAANC providers like Skyward to offer drone pilots fast and easy access to controlled airspace. This means that drone operators can request automated access to this airspace via the Skyward platform. (Check out this article to learn how to submit a request through LAANC in Skyward.)
Typically, the FAA updates LAANC requirements annually, making refinements and adding new capabilities. This year was no exception, with a few important improvements.
Refined LAANC airspace grids
The low-altitude airspace surrounding controlled airports is divided into grids, called a “facility map.” Prior to this recent LAANC update, each grid covered about one square mile and listed a maximum altitude (from 0 to 400 feet above ground level) up to which a drone pilot could automatically request permission to fly.
However, one square mile is quite a large area. If even a tiny corner of the grid required a lower maximum altitude, the whole grid’s airspace ceiling would have to be lowered accordingly.
That’s why, in the latest generation of LAANC, the FAA has split each grid into four smaller quadrants of about one-quarter square mile each. This enables drone pilots to make more specific airspace access requests, and in some many cases it may allow for higher LAANC ceilings up to which pilots can fly.
You can go see the changes for yourself on Skyward’s airspace map.
LAANC authorizations for drone flights at night
Early in 2021, the FAA amended the Part 107 rules to allow nighttime drone flights without a waiver given certain prerequisites as a means of compliance. However, previous LAANC authorization requests for flight in controlled airspace were only allowed during daylight hours. This led to the FAA creating a temporary workaround solution that extended daylight LAANC authorizations to be valid for night operations for that same calendar day.
Fortunately, with the latest LAANC updates, such a workaround is no longer necessary. Part 107 drone pilots can now submit airspace requests through LAANC for operations at any time of day or night, and receive a response within seconds. For Skyward customers, this creates an even more streamlined mission planning experience, no matter when or where these operations may be taking place.