There’s an all-new B4UFLY app update, and it’s a good one.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s B4UFLY app, a free mobile app iOS and Android intended to help drone operators check the status of airspace prior to drone flights, got an update this week.
B4UFLY is a free app that intended to “help drone operators operate compliantly with FAA rules and regulations.” And while the app has widely used (more than 700,000 people have used it since its launch in 2016), it also received heavy criticism for being glitchy, confusing and cumbersome to use. At one point, it had an average rating of just 1.5/5 on the iTunes app store (it has since improved to the 4-star range), and an even more abysmal rating of 1.5/5 out of 1,107 reviews on the Android App store on Google Play.
It was perhaps those low reviews that prompted the FAA to put out a call for private companies to help them fix their app. In February, San Francisco-based, drone software startup Kittyhawk announced it would lead development in an exclusive public-private partnership of the next iteration of the drone app.
Kitthyhawk’s new, redesigned version of the app shows drone operators what airspace restrictions are in effect at any location in the United States, in real-time. (Often airspace that is typically okay to fly in can quickly change due to something like a weather emergency or a major event, such as a parade, sports game or dignitary in town.
Upon opening the app, users can expect to see easier-to-understand airspace guidance that includes Good to Go, Warning and Do Not Fly labels, plus links to educational content, safety resources, and LAANC, the FAA’s Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability for obtaining authorizations to fly in controlled airspace. (Kittyhawk is also a LAANC partner).
The new app is also powered by Kittyhawk’s Dynamic Airspace platform, Kittyhawk’s patented airspace controller for managing real-time flight restrictions, authorizations, and guidance. The Dynamic Airspace feature was released by Kittyhawk earlier this year to enables teams to look at your airspace, see your authorizations, locations, annotations, and the points of interest relevant to those company in one place, with the intent to bring greater situational awareness to drone flights.
The FAA said that the app’s redesign came at no cost to taxpayers.
Kittyhawk also said they are still iterating on future improvements to the app, indicating that users can expect future updates to include new capabilities for weather, Remote ID and additional data layers for uses in public safety, natural disasters and emergency response.
Kittyhawk launched in 2015 as a post-flight logging utility, and later moved into more aspects of operations, including mission planning, pre-flight checklists, ability to see live flight traffic and flight logging. The company now has funding from Boeing’s HorizonX and other investors including Bonfire Ventures and Freestyle Capital.