With the rollout of the FAA LAANC program in the Midwest, instant flight approvals for commercial drones are now available nationwide! This is a huge accomplishment for the FAA and the commercial drone industry.

Pilots across the U.S. can now get the okay to fly in seconds via Skyward.

Today, September 13, the FAA’s LAANC (Low Altitude Airspace Notification Capability) program launches in the Central North region, including airspace around Chicago O’Hare International, the world’s sixth-busiest airport. Instead of going through a manual permitting process which can take months, Part 107 UAV pilots can get authorization to launch in controlled airspace in a few seconds via Skyward, one of the only platforms with LAANC capability.

The area covered by the LAANC expansion spans 14 heartland states: Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. You can see if LAANC is live in your area.

Here’s what you need to know, from where LAANC is available, to how it works, to some examples of commercial uses of drones in FAA’s central north zone.

LAANC Goes Live in Central North Region

In addition to international airports, roughly 70 smaller air markets are covered in this region. Here’s the full list.

  • Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZID)
    Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG), Hebron KY (already live)
  • London-Corbin Airport (LOZ), London, KY
  • Lake Cumberland Regional (SME), Somerset, KY
  • Zanesville Municipal Airport (ZZV), Zanesville, OH
  • Mercer County Airport (BLF), Bluefield, WV
  • Terre Haute Regional Airport (HUF), Terre Haute, IN
  • Bowman Field (LOU), Louisville, KY
  • Huntington Tri-State Airport (HTS), Huntington, WV
  • Evansville Regional Airport (EVV), Evansville, IN
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND), Indianapolis, IN
  • Blue Grass Airport (LEX), Lexington, KY
  • Louisville International Airport (SDF), Louisville, KY
  • John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH), Columbus, OH
  • Dayton International Airport (DAY), Dayton, OH
  • Yeager Airport (CRW), Charleston, WV
  • Raleigh County Memorial Airport (BKW), Beaver, WV
  • Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZOB)
    Bradford Regional Airport (BFD), Lewis Run, PA
  • DuBois Regional Airport (DUJ), Reynoldsville, PA
  • Allegheny County Airport (AGC), West Mifflin, PA
  • Ann Arbor Municipal Airport (ARB), Ann Arbor, MI
  • North Central West Virginia Airport (CKB), Bridgeport, WV
  • Elkins-Randolph Co. Regional Airport (EKN), Elkins, WV
  • Erie International Airport (ERI), Erie, PA
  • Chautauqua County/Jamestown Airport (JHW), Jamestown, NY
  • MBS International Airport (MBS), Freeland, MI
  • Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport (MFD), Mansfield, OH
  • Oakland County International Airport (PTK), Waterford Township, MI
  • Willow Run Airport (YIP), Ypsilanti, MI
  • Youngstown–Warren Regional Airport (YNG), Vienna, OH
  • Venango Regional Airport (FKL), Franklin, PA
  • Bishop International Airport (FNT), Flint, MI
  • Capital Region International Airport (LAN), Lansing, MI
  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, NY
  • Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC), Rochester, NY
  • Akron–Canton Airport (CAK), North Canton, OH
  • Akron Fulton International Airport (AKR), Akron, OH
  • Toledo Express Airport (TOL), Swanton, OH
  • Findlay Airport (FDY), Findlay, OH
  • Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), Detroit, MI
  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE), Cleveland, OH
  • Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT), Pittsburgh, PA
  • Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZAU)
    Southeast Iowa Regional Airport (BRL), Burlington, IA
  • Ottumwa Regional Airport (OTM), Ottumwa, IA
  • Iowa County Airport (MRJ), Mineral Point, WI
  • Waterloo Regional Airport (ALO), Waterloo, IA
  • Chicago/Aurora Municipal Airport (ARR), Sugar Grove, IL
  • Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport (AZO), Portage, MI
  • DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, IL
  • Purdue University Airport (LAF), West Lafayette, IN
  • Muskegon County Airport (MKG), Muskegon, MI
  • Chicago Executive Airport (PWK), Wheeling, IL
  • Chicago Rockford International Airport (RFD), Rockford, IL
  • Eastern Iowa Airport (CID), Cedar Rapids, IA
  • University of Illinois Willard Airport (CMI), Savoy, IL
  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), Chicago, IL
  • Quad City International Airport (MLI), Moline, IL
  • Clinton Municipal Airport (CWI), Clinton, IA
  • Davenport Municipal Airport (DVN), Davenport, IA
  • Muscatine Municipal Airport (MUT), Muscatine, IA
  • Galesburg Municipal Airport (GBG),  Galesburg, IL
  • General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport (PIA), Peoria, IL
  • Fort Wayne International Airport (FWA), Fort Wayne, IN
  • South Bend International Airport (SBN), South Bend, IN
  • Southwest Michigan Regional Airport (BEH), Benton Harbor, MI
  • Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR), Grand Rapids, MI
  • Dane County Regional Airport (MSN), Madison, WI
  • Tri-County Regional Airport (LNR), Spring Green, WI
  • General Mitchell International Airport (MKE), Milwaukee, WI
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Chicago, IL
  • Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZMP)
    Fort Dodge Regional Airport (FOD), Fort Dodge, IA (already live)
  • Mason City Municipal Airport (MCW), Clear Lake, IA (already live)
  • Spencer Municipal Airport (SPW), Spencer, IA (already live)
  • Delta County Airport (ESC), Escanaba, MI (already live)
  • Houghton County Memorial Airport (CMX), Calumet, MI (already live)
  • Ford Airport (IMT),  Kingsford, MI (already live)
  • Gogebic–Iron County Airport (IWD), Ironwood, MI (already live)
  • Oscoda–Wurtsmith Airport (OSC), Oscoda Township, MI (already live)
  • Pellston Regional Airport (PLN), Pellston, MI  (already live)
  • Alexandria Municipal Airport (AXN), Alexandria, MN (already live)
  • Bemidji Regional Airport (BJI), Bemidji, MN (already live)
  • Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport (BRD), Brainerd, MN (already live)
  • Ely Municipal Airport (ELO), Ely, MN (already live)
  • Fairmont Municipal Airport (FRM), Fairmont, MN (already live)
  • Fergus Falls Municipal Airport (FFM), Fergus Falls, MN (already live)
  • Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport (DIK), Dickinson, ND (already live)
  • Falls International Airport (INL), International Falls, MN (already live)
  • Mankato Regional Airport (MKT), Mankato, MN (already live)
  • Redwood Falls Municipal Airport (RWF), Redwood Falls, MN (already live)
  • Thief River Falls Regional Airport (TVF), Thief River Falls, MN (already live)
  • Worthington Municipal Airport (OTG), Worthington, MN (already live)
  • Devils Lake Regional Airport (DVL), Devils Lake, ND (already live)
  • Grand Rapids–Itasca County Airport (GPZ), Grand Rapids, MN (already live)
  • Jamestown Regional Airport (JMS), Jamestown, ND (already live)
  • Columbus Municipal Airport (OLU), Columbus, NE (already live)
  • Hastings Municipal Airport (HIS), Hastings, NE (already live)
  • Kearney Regional Airport (EAR), Center, NE (already live)
  • Norfolk Regional Airport (OFK), Norfolk, NE (already live)
  • Aberdeen Regional Airport (ABR), Aberdeen, SD (already live)
  • Brookings Regional Airport (BKX), Brookings, SD (already live)
  • Huron Regional Airport (HON), Huron, SD (already live)
  • Mitchell Municipal Airport (MHE), Mitchell, SD (already live)
  • Pierre Regional Airport (PIR), Pierre, SD (already live)
  • Watertown Regional Airport (ATY), Watertown, SD (already live)
  • Chan Gurney Municipal Airport (YKN), Yankton, SD (already live)
  • Rhinelander–Oneida County Airport (RHI), Rhinelander, WI (already live)
  • Storm Lake Municipal Airport (SLB), Storm Lake, IA (already live)
  • Lincoln Airport (LKN), Lincoln, NE (already live)
  • Bismarck Municipal Airport (BIS), Bismarck, ND
  • Duluth International Airport (DLH), Duluth, MN
  • Range Regional Airport (HIB), Hibbing, MN
  • Hector International Airport (FAR), Fargo, ND
  • Flying Cloud Airport (FCM), Eden Prairie, MN
  • Sioux Falls Regional Airport (FSD), Sioux Falls, SD
  • Grand Forks International Airport (GFK), Grand Forks, ND
  • Crystal Airport (MIC), Minneapolis, MN
  • Rochester International Airport (RST), Rochester, MN
  • St. Paul Downtown Airport (STP), St. Paul, MN
  • Sioux Gateway Airport (SUX), Sioux City, IA
  • Cherry Capital Airport (TVC), Traverse City, MI
  • Des Moines International Airport (DSM), Des Moines, IA
  • Ames Municipal Airport (AMW), Ames, IA
  • Ankeny Regional Airport (IKV), Ankeny, IA
  • Newton Municipal Airport (TNU), Newton, IA
  • Green Bay–Austin Straubel International Airport (GRB), Green Bay, WI
  • Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), Hennepin County, MN

Four Things to Remember for Central North LAANC Use

This regional rollout completes the phase-in of real-time access to controlled airspace by the FAA. Here are the four main things to know.

  1. LAANC goes live on September 13, 2018 for the UAS facilities managed by four air route traffic control centers (ATCs): Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZID), Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZOB), Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZAU), and Minneapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center (ZMP).
  2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that every airport in the region is participating. ATCs managed by private contractors aren’t included. The official list of ATCs with live LAANC capability is on the FAA’s website.
  3. Regulations can vary by state, though they must conform with federal rules. In Illinois, uses of drones by law enforcement are restricted to protect privacy, and cities with over 1 million inhabitants may enact their own drone ordinances. Pennsylvania restricts UAV use in state parks, providing designated flight zones at six sites only. Multiple states, including West Virginia and Michigan, prohibit hunting or fishing using drones.
  4. 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 thousands of inquiries. To stay in compliance with the rules, use a drone ops management platform like Skyward that has up-to-the-minute LAANC status.

Commercial Uses of Drones in the Region

Drones are reinventing the ways work gets done. For instance, the University of Nebraska’s NIMBUS (Nebraska Intelligent MoBile Unmanned Systems) Lab is developing cutting-edge uses such as aerial water sampling, crop height analysis, and prescribed fire ignition for range management.

Here are other examples of the diverse commercial uses of UAS in the area covered by the latest LAANC rollout.

  • Utilities – Drones are employed to scope out infrastructure damage after a storm, survey terrain, and inspect thousands of miles of poles and power lines, and detect natural gas pipeline leaks. They’re transforming the job of linemen for the better, dramatically improving safety and response times.
  • Public Safety – Wisconsin is among the top three states nationwide with the highest use of drones by state and local public safety agencies, with first responder departments using drones tripling from 18 to 56 in 2018 alone. Uses include finding missing persons, firefighting, building searches, rescues, storm damage assessments, and mapping crime scenes.
  • Transportation – Ohio is testing piloting UAS for highway traffic monitoring in a smart-mobility corridor. North Dakota’s transportation agency is exploring how drones can help inspect transportation infrastructure and deliver emergency road response during blizzards, with the aim of reducing traffic fatalities.
  • Agriculture – A Michigan farmer uses his UAV to quickly scout where his work crew is, saving him time from driving around looking. The ability to see from above has also eliminated losses when filled apple bins are mistakenly left in the orchard. Other ag uses include spotting weed pressures, finding far-flung herds in rugged terrain, fertilizer and irrigation management, and evidence for insurance claims for wind or hail damage.
  • Environmental monitoring – Federal agencies are using drones to document restoration of coal mining sites in Appalachia, monitoring vegetation, calculating cut-fill volumes, and cataloging mining features, at far lower cost than satellite imagery.
  • Building inspections – Insurance adjusters and real estate inspectors can perform roof and chimney inspections at a fraction of the time, from the ground, rather than climbing and working at heights. One Ohio inspector plans to expand his services by equipping his unmanned aerial with a thermal camera, to show where energy improvements could cut heat loss from walls and rooftops.

Skyward: The Easiest Way to Access Airspace with LAANC

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LAANC Access in Skyward