The FAA has started rolling out instant airspace authorizations to fly at night in controlled airspace via LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability).
LAANC is the system the FAA uses to provide drone pilots with instant airspace authorizations—and now you can use it to get authorization to fly at night in controlled airspace.
It’s also so new that the FAA hasn’t yet updated its website to reflect this capability.
At the moment, the FAA’s website only has a general statement saying that this ability will be available in the fall of 2021, with no other details shared:
In the fall of 2021, the LAANC capability will expand to allow night authorization requests.– The FAA
How to Make a Night Airspace Authorization Request with Aloft
Before you can use Aloft to request a night airspace authorization for commercial drone operations* you must first:
- Obtain a Part 107 license.
- Complete the FAA’s night operations training, which came into effect on April 21, 2021.**
- Equip your drone with anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles.
*Recreational drone pilots are not allowed to fly in controlled airspace at night.
**If you took your Part 107 test on or after April 21, 2021 then the night operations training was part of your test, and you do not need to complete any additional training.
Once you’ve completed the above, here’s how you can use Aloft to get night airspace authorizations via LAANC:
- Download the Aloft app.
- In the app, go to the controlled airspace where you want to fly.
- Confirm that the altitude at which you want to fly is allowed.
- Click “+Add” at the bottom of the screen and select “Request LAANC Authorization.”
- Select “Part 107 Commercial” operator on the next screen.
- Select the region and altitude you want to fly at on the next screen.
- Choose the duration of your operation on the next screen.
- And finally—choose the time of your operation.
The final step is where you can now select nighttime hours.
It’s a small change with big implications.
You can now submit times—such as, say, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.—that previously would not have been allowed in the airspace authorization request process.
After you’ve completed the process and submitted your information in the app, you should receive a text message within the next few seconds giving you approval and detailing the parameters of that approval.
The Current Process for Getting a Night Airspace Authorization
Here is the process that is currently being phased out as LAANC approvals are phased in, taken directly from the FAA:
The following is guidance for [night airspace authorization] requests between April 21 and the Fall of 2021.
Night authorizations at or below the approved altitude in the UAS Facility Maps will consist of two separate authorizations that combined, allow you to fly at night:
- Daytime authorization (follow the steps outlined above for automated approval).
- National Authorization (PDF) that extends your daytime authorization to allow night time operations for the date indicated on the LAANC authorization.
- You do not have to apply for the National Authorization, you can access it here (PDF).
- The National Authorization is effective only in conjunction with LAANC issued authorizations at or below the Unmanned Aircraft System Facility Map (UASFM) values of the same calendar day.
- Night time operations that carry over from one calendar day to the next will require separate LAANC daytime authorizations each calendar day.
In short, if you’re using the old approach to make a night airspace authorization request, you need to get LAANC approval for daytime hours and then also get a National Authorization, which you can fill out yourself.
It’s important to note that, if you’re using this approach, LAANC approval for daytime hours is required for all the days in which you plan to fly at night.
To take the example above, if you plan to fly from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., then you’ll need daytime LAANC authorization for two days—the day on which you plan to start and the day on which you plan to end.
As you may have noticed, this process is meant to be a temporary solution, and only in place between April 21, 2021 (when the nighttime rule went into effect) and some point in the fall of 2021.
At this point, we’d recommend using Aloft (or other LAANC-enabled apps as they add nighttime authorization request capability) to avoid the extra steps of getting multiple daytime LAANC authorizations and the National Authorization.