Regulatory

Controlled Airspace Open to Commercial Drone Operations With Skyward

By S.L. Fuller | October 18, 2017

Reno-Tahoe_International_Airport,_Reno,_Nevada_(18196219355)

Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Photo by Ken Lund

The FAA is starting to approve methods for granting unmanned aircraft systems operators instant access to controlled airspace. Verizon’s Skyward is the first firm able to provide the access, using the FAA’s low altitude authorization and notification capability services (LAANC).

Skyward said the program is set to roll out before the end of the year at Cincinnati International Airport; Reno, Nevada; San Jose, California; and Lincoln, Nebraska; among others.

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Before this method became available, users had to submit manual requests for authorization. Now, the process is automated, which Skyward said reduces the wait time from months to seconds. Users can select the area in which they wish to operate, agree to abide by Part 107 rules and receive approval through the software.

"Based on customer feedback, we know most of their jobs are in controlled airspace and getting access to fly in these areas is one of their largest business pain points," said Mariah Scott, co-president of the drone operations management software company. "Operators have had to wait 60 to 90 days to receive authorization under the existing system. Now, with Skyward and LAANC, enterprises can get approval to fly in just two clicks. With this hurdle gone, we can expect to see substantial adoption of drone technology at the enterprise level."

Skyward is one of the 12 members in the LAANC working group, and helped to develop this capability. The company told R&WI that as the FAA evaluates other technologies and offerings, other methods and organizations may be approved to provide commercial drone operators with access to controlled airspace.

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