Drone Access to Controlled Airspace in Phoenix

Director of Client Strategy and Business Development at Skyward

With the FAA’s LAANC (Low Altitude Airspace Notification Capability), requests for authorization to fly UAVs in controlled airspace can now be handled in seconds instead of taking weeks or months through the FAA waiver system.

The expansion of this program to new regions in the Southwest is expected to further fuel the growth of drone use in public and private industries in Arizona. Accessing LAANC airspace via Skyward is quick and easy, and it’s enabling companies in Phoenix to get into the air fast. Here are the five main things to know about the rollout of real-time access to PHX controlled airspace, and examples of commercial use of UAS in the region.

Phoenix Sky Harbor LAANC Airpsace

  1. LAANC has been live in airspace surrounding Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) since last fall, and will be coming to more airports in the Phoenix metro area and the rest of Arizona on April 30, 2018. See the full list of where and when LAANC is rolling out nationwide.
  2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that every airport in the region is participating. FAA drone rules put decision-making on the LAANC program under the auspices of air traffic control centers (ATC), not airports themselves. And not every ATC facility in a given region is taking part.
  3. Also, the FAA could shift go-live dates. The official list of ATCs with live LAANC capability is on the agency’s site, but things are changing quickly and the list may not be current.
  4. Make sure you’re in compliance with state and local drone laws. In Arizona, local municipalities can set rules on UAV operation in some parks. State drone regulations specify pilots can’t interfere with any emergency, law enforcement, or firefighting activity. You can’t linger over or take photos of critical infrastructure with criminal intent.
  5. What should you do to be sure you’re in compliance with the rules and really authorized to fly? DON’T call your airport or ATC to ask about LAANC access. They don’t have capacity or authority to respond to what could be dozens or thousands of inquiries. DO use a drone ops management platform that has up-to-the-minute airspace regulations, including TFRs and LAANC. (See the walk-through video or review how it works step by step on Skyward’s platform.)

Douglas, Winslow, Mesa, Phoenix Deer Valley, Prescott, Scottsdale, and Tucson are all slated for LAANC rollout on April 30.

Common Commercial Uses of Drones in Phoenix

Drones are being adopted for a surprising number of uses across public entities and private enterprise in and around Phoenix. Here are examples of drone systems at work in everyday operations in the region.

  • Energy & utilities – There are so many use cases here, but one of my favorite examples is how our customer POWER Engineers, a multinational engineering and consulting firm, used drones for transmission line mapping in protected saguaro cactus habitat.
  • Mining – Drones are being used to collect above- and below-ground data using high-resolution photography, video, LIDAR and even underground flights. Mine operators can detect mineralization, map land contours, assess drainage and direction of faulting, map boundary lines, and define the best transportation routes.
  • First responders – The Maricopa Police Department is using its UAV to allow peace officers to assess tactical situations from a safe distance. Mesa firefighters are using UAS to improve search and rescue operations, to survey flood damage and to train for commercial fires and hazmat incidents.
  • Real estate – Local real estate agents are editing stunning aerial views and lifestyle shots into property listing videos.
  • Media – UAS is already a mainstream tool for Arizona filmmakers and TV news operations, who love both the cost savings over manned aircraft and quality of footage.
  • The construction industry (inspections and site surveys), agriculture (detecting irrigation problems, soil variations and infestations), and waste management companies (assessing stockpile size, detecting gases, erosion mapping) are other local business sectors leveraging drones.

Easiest Way to Access Airspace with LAANC

POWER Engineers needed to accurately catalog sensitive wildlife in a protected saguaro ecosystem, as part of environmental permitting for a transmission line. They needed to do it fast, without compromising data quality. “The biggest thing that we used Skyward for was flight planning and to make sure that we weren’t in airspace that required further authorization,” says Aaron Ames, the company’s mapping and analysis manager. “We didn’t really have time in our schedule to obtain waivers from the FAA.”

Skyward is one of the only drone ops management software that integrates LAANC’s instant access to airspace with a full suite of easy-to-use tools for managing pilots, aircraft, risks and safety. These advances are rapidly expanding what can be done with drones in Phoenix and throughout Arizona, especially given strong support for UAS from the state’s important aerospace industry.

Interested in rolling out UAS for your company or scaling up your program? Get a free consultation