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Onward and Skyward! FAA Launches Automated Drone Approval Process

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved a fast-track, automated approval process that allows commercial drone operators instant access to controlled airspace. The move helps reduce wait times to seconds for businesses, which previously had to seek approval over a months-long process.

Skyward, the Verizon-owned company that administers the automated Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) approval process, announced that it is going online this fall at the Cincinnati International Airport, Reno, San Jose, Lincoln and others.

"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," Mariah Scott, co-president of Skyward, said in a statement. "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."

However, Josh Ziering, co-founder and chief pilot at Kittyhawk and member of the FAA UAV Safety Team, said the limited nature of the program means most drone pilots will still have to abide by the previous licensing process.

"With the initial 10 areas, there is not going to be a lot of traffic compared to the total," Ziering said. "Though the Skyward PR frames it like LAANC is here and available, it's only here for those 10 spots and for a limited time, initially. If you're not trying to fly in those spots you need to go through the old waiver process like everyone else. And that can take 30 to 90 days."

Last year, the FAA released its Part 107 rules on commercial drone usage, which clarified the regulations surrounding the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for business. Since, adoption by commercials has increased, but operators have still found an arduous approval process waiting for them. The hope of the FAA and Skyward is that the automated process will result in more widespread drone adoption by commercial operators. [See how businesses are already using drones for everything from multimedia to inspections.]

As of March, 770,000 commercial drone operators registered with the FAA across the country, but the FAA expects those numbers to grow dramatically in the coming years. The current rules allow for the use of drones less than 55 pounds while in the line of sight of the operator, up to altitudes of 400 feet. Common commercial uses offer inspections, delivery services, media, and wireless internet access.

Skyward is offering a free webinar on Nov. 9, 2017 at 1 p.m. ET for those who want to learn more about LAANC and gaining instant access to controlled airspace:

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