Commercial drone operators are about to feel a little less caged. The FAA is expected to loosen restrictions on where some drone operators can fly them, near Colorado airports.
“LAANC is a new system from the FAA that allows commercial pilots to get instant airspace authorization with flying in restricted areas,” said Kerry Garrison, Chief Operating Officer of DJI Colorado.
Right now, drones can’t fly within five miles of any airport without authorization but Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability allows remote pilots like Garrison to access that airspace in real time.
“In the past, we had to apply for waivers or authorizations that could talk three or four months,” Garrison said. “So a process that would take literally months and months of time is now going to be done in a matter of seconds.”
He said a lot of professionals like roof inspectors and realtors will be able to fly drones in places they can’t now.
But 9NEWS aviation expert Greg Feith said there are a few drawbacks.
“Now that these restrictions have changed some people are going to take advantage of it,” Feith said.
He said pilots worry about drone operators that aren’t trained.
“Fixed wing and helicopter pilots that are actually flying large manned aircraft are really going to have to be more attuned and aware of the environment now that there are going to be drones within five miles operating within the national airspace system,” Feith said.
Drones can fly up to 400 feet above ground within that airspace but only with authorization – and that number gets lower are you near the actual airport.
“It’s very strictly defined how high we can fly anywhere near the airport,” Garrison said. “Hobbyists don’t understand the rules.”
That is why a lot of drones have built-in systems that don’t allow them to fly into restricted areas without permission.
“They’re go fenced,” Garrison said. “It won’t even let you take off if you’re too close to an airport.”
Now, Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability will allow pilots to access that in real time.
“As everyone learns what this process is, what this program is and how it benefits both manned and unmanned,” Garrison said. “I think everyone is going to see this is a win, win for everybody.”
The looser restrictions apply only to commercial drone operators who are authorized by the new system.
It’s expected to take effect here on May 24 and will cover about 500 airports by September.
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