Acting administrator Dan Elwell announced the Federal Aviation Administration is expanding tests of the LAANC automated system that will ultimately provide near real-time processing of airspace authorization requests for UAS operators nationwide.

Under the FAA’s Part 107 small drone rule, operators must secure approval from the agency to operate in any airspace controlled by an air traffic facility.

To facilitate those approvals, the agency deployed the prototype Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) at several air traffic facilities last November to evaluate the feasibility of a fully automated solution enabled by data sharing.

Based on the prototype’s success, the agency will now conduct a nationwide beta test beginning April 30 that will deploy LAANC incrementally at nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports. The final deployment will begin on September 13.

Drone operators using LAANC can receive near real-time airspace authorizations. This dramatically decreases the wait experienced using the manual authorization process and allows operators to quickly plan their flights. Air traffic controllers also can see where planned drone operations will take place

The expansion will begin in April, with the FAA releasing a new region each month.

April 30: South Central USA
May 24: Western North USA
June 21: Western South USA
July 19: Eastern South USA
August 16: Eastern North USA
September 13: Central North USA

Currently, there are four LAANC providers — AirMap, Project Wing, Rockwell Collins, and Skyward.