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Article By: Mark Rockwell

 

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.