Want to legally fly drones at night? It just got a whole lot easier. As long as you have a current Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, you can now use LAANC capabilities to quickly and easily apply for night authorization.
The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Thursday that certified drone pilots may now obtain near real-time authorizations to fly at night through FAA-approved providers of Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) services.
LAANC is an automated system that was initially created for drone pilots requesting to fly below 400 feet in controlled airspace that wasn’t necessarily high-risk, such as in some areas around airports. To this day, all drone pilots need FAA approval prior to flying in controlled airspace, which can be mind-boggling if you want to fly a drone in your backyard four miles from an airport — even if that’s still considered controlled airspace. It might even make sense for commercial operations like using drones for emergency response, where there’s no time to apply for FAA approval.
LAANC, which began as a prototype in 2017 and expanded to recreational pilots in 2019, makes applying for approval very easy — and it’s actually a near-real-time process (just don’t call it instant).
Now, LAANC capabilities have expanded further. All drone pilots need FAA approval to fly drones at night, though since April 2021, Part 107 pilots were able to operate in controlled airspace at night with a valid LAANC daytime authorization and an authorization letter from the FAA which expired on Sept. 30, 2021.
Still, that was another roadblock that some say didn’t make sense given that drones may be easier to fly at night given how their lights make them easy to see against the dark sky backdrop, as opposed to having sun in your eyes. In addition to the near real-time night authorizations, drone pilots will have more areas they can fly in since the FAA has divided the airspace into smaller segments.
To request approval to fly, you’ll have to go through one of the service providers, but it’s typically easy. One of the biggest ones, Aloft, offers a smartphone app where you can input your information and likely quickly receive your approval. Recreational pilots might turn to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)’s free LAANC software made in partnership with a company called UASidekick.
“Today’s announcement provides a permanent solution for Part 107 drone pilots to operate in controlled airspace at night,” according to an FAA statement.