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AASHTO Journal

FAA Begins Testing Drone Tracking System

​The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now expanding an automated system that will ultimately provide near real-time processing of airspace authorization requests for unmanned aircraft or "drone" operators nationwide. The agency noted in a statement that this is "an important step" in developing an unmanned aircraft systems traffic management system.

The FAA started phasing in a "nationwide beta test" of the low altitude authorization and notification capability or "LAANC" system for tracking drones on April 30 that will eventually encompass nearly 300 air traffic facilities covering approximately 500 airports; a test that follows what the agency dubbed a "successful evaluation" of a prototype LAANC system last November.

The agency said it is maintaining a list of the facilities participating in this test on its website and expects to have this second-phase of its LAANC system testing fully up and running by Sept. 13.

FAA noted that drone operators using the LAANC system can receive near real-time airspace authorizations, thus decreasing the wait-times experienced when using a manual authorization process. The agency said its LAANC system uses airspace data provided through temporary flight restrictions, notices to airmen (NOTAMs) and drone facility maps that show the maximum altitude ceiling around airports where the FAA may authorize operations.

The agency added that back in mid-April it began "considering agreements" with outside suppliers to provide LAANC services and will be accepting applications until May 16. FAA stressed that these "outside agreements are "not a standard government acquisition; there is no screening information request or request-for-proposal related to this effort."

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