If you’re a drone pilot making LAANC authorization requests, which are a crucial step to flying drones in controlled airspaces, then you can submit your application for near-instant authorization to any number of Federal Aviation Administration-approved LAANC service suppliers.
But if we’re betting, then it’s a pretty good bet that the company you’re making those LAANC authorization requests through is none other than Aloft, the company formerly known as Kittyhawk.
Aloft announced this month that its platform powered 70% of the monthly LAANC authorization requests to the FAA in September 2021. That makes Aloft the largest LAANC UAS Service Supplier not just for recreational pilots, but commercial operators as well from backgrounds including law enforcement and government.
And their market share is growing. Less than six months ago, Aloft had a still-impressive but much smaller market share of about 50% of all LAANC airspace authorizations.
There’s no one reason why Aloft’s dominance crew, but a big factor goes to Aloft working as the company behind the FAA’s B4UFLY app, a job it took over a few years back to give the lagging app a much-needed update.
What is the state of LAANC authorization requests?
That said, overall LAANC requests are down, which could suggest a slowdown in drone flights.According to the FAA monthly report, there were less than 40,000 LAANC requests in September, which represents more than a 10% decrease month-over-month.
That might not necessarily be a bad thing, as the drone industry comes with some seasonality in some regions given that most drones generally cannot be operated in the rain or during active snowfall, and flying drones in cold weather is generally more complicated.
But even with LAANC requests being down, LAANC requests through Aloft are up. Aloft says it powered more than 25,000 authorization requests in September, which is actually a 14% month-over-month increase.
Aloft said a huge chunk — roughly 10% — of those requests are coming from drone pilots seeking approval to fly drones at night. About a month ago, the FAA announced that certified drone pilots may now obtain near real-time authorizations to fly at night through FAA-approved LAANC providers such as Aloft, removing a roadblock that frustrated drone pilots who felt that drones may actually be easier to fly at night given how their lights make them easier to see against a dark sky backdrop (as opposed to risking sun blinding your eyes).
What is LAANC?
LAANC is an automated system initially created for drone pilots looking to fly below 400 feet in controlled airspaces that weren’t necessarily high-risk, such as in your own backyard that happens to be located three miles from an airport.
Without LAANC, you need to manually obtain FAA approval prior to flying in controlled airspace, which can be a long, paperwork-ridden process. For some commercial operations like using drones for emergency response, there’s no time to apply for FAA approval. LAANC, which began as a prototype in 2017 before expanding to recreational pilots in 2019, removes those roadblocks.
To request approval to fly with LAANC, you can use any of the FAA-approved LAANC service providers, which includes Aloft, as well as others like DroneUp Airspace Planner and AirMap. There’s also the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)’s free LAANC software made in partnership with a company called UASidekick. Most of the LAANC service suppliers, including Aloft, offer a smartphone app where you can input your information and likely quickly receive your approval.