In mid-May, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) clamped down on recreational drone operators by issuing a notice that prohibited them from flying in controlled airspace plus other restricted airports. While not legally binding, the message was clear: hobbyist pilots were now expected to be in compliance with the rules and regulations laid out in 14 CFR 107. The hiccup? Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC), which provides near real-time authorization to fly in controlled airspace, is only available for those in possession of Part 107 certification.

The FAA is fixing this conundrum by expanding LAANC to recreational users on July 23rd. The announcement was made in a recent webinar by Kevin Morris, an Aviation Safety Inspector with the FAA. Also mentioned was an important caveat, relayed from an FAA official: ‘Section 349 hobby flights cannot exceed UAS Facility Maps limitations. If you want to fly outside UASFM limits (200’ in a 100’, or in a 0’ grid), you still have to fly under Part 107.’

Before LAANC, a collaboration between the FAA and drone industry was introduced to Part 107-certified commercial operators in October 2018, obtaining a waiver to fly in controlled airspace could take up to 90 days. LAANC automates the application and approval process by providing access in near real-time with 600 participating airports. A list of approved UAS service suppliers can be found here.

Before the expansion becomes official, the FAA is hosting a free webinar, ‘What is the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC)?,’ on July 18th at 4:00 pm, Eastern Time.