Drone Safety Awareness Week 2021 was exciting for our Aloft community with many compelling updates at the FAA Symposium Episode IV and encouraging adoption of Notify & Fly!

Episode IV of the FAA’s Symposium last Tuesday and Wednesday was packed with many great discussions about where the drone industry currently is and impactful future changes that are coming. In case you missed it here are a few highlights from key sessions at last week’s episode.

To kick off day one of the Symposium, Aloft’s CTO and Founder, Joshua Ziering gave a briefing with Keely Griffith, Director of Industry Education at AUVSI and Erik Amend, Manager, Executive Office of UAS Integration Office at the FAA. In his briefing, Josh discussed the success of the launch and response of Notify & Fly on the FAA’s B4UFLY app in the first week and the future vision of this feature:

"To date, Notify & Fly has been very successful. We have seen tons of submissions since launching this great situational awareness tool. Not only through the FAA's free B4UFLY app but through the API as well, it is a great way for people to signal their intentions and share that with the largest audience of UAS stakeholders in the world. Notify & Fly really is an incremental step towards UTM. Because the future of UTM is going to be far more complex than this but we really think that this is the largest scale deployment of a system like this to date and allows for interoperability amongst many different stakeholders so calling it UTM 0.1 isn’t too aggressive at all." - Joshua Ziering

The symposium included discussions on the implementation and adoption of UTM, Remote ID, BVLOS operations, and why diversity, equity and inclusion matter to the future of aviation to name a few.

During the ‘Exploring UTM: Around the World in 55 Minutes’ session, there was extensive conversation about how UTM systems are being implemented in other countries like Israel, Brazil and Europe to perform testing for advanced drone operations like BVLOS. In each of the sessions about UTM, Remote ID was discussed at length as a vital piece of the puzzle for enabling effective interoperability of drones in UTM ecosystems.

The Chief Operating Officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization ( ATO ), Teri L. Bristol hosted a session on updates on airspace integration of drones. She stated in the United States we now have more than 868,000 registered drones and 350,000 of those UASs are being used for commercial endeavors. To give perspective there are less than 6,000 commercial and business jets in the United States today. She highlighted these numbers to give perspective of the sheer volume of traffic drones are capable of creating. She continued by discussing some of the improvements that have been made to LAANC and are coming in the near future. She stated that since launching LAANC in 2017, the FAA has issued more than 820,000 approvals for airspace access. She also highlighted that all FAA- approved USS will be required to offer LAANC at night capabilities by the end of September. To note, LAANC at night is already available on the Aloft app, read more about it here.

In addition to LAANC at night, Bristol announced that the FAA is working on updating the UAS Facility Maps or quad grids which will allow for more geographic flexibility for airspace users. The current UAS Facility maps are rectangles of roughly one square mile. Bristol and her team at ATO are working on refining the grid spacing to create four rectangles where there is currently just one. This will allow for more precision in areas that need to be protected by reducing risk to higher traffic areas and increasing the ability for automatic approval in an increased number of grids. This project is slated to be reviewed and completed this month with anticipated benefits of these updates being released to the drone community as soon as November 2021.

Bristol closed out her session by discussing the BVLOS ARC (Aviation Rulemaking Committee) that is taking place now. The BVLOS ARC is a collection of 90 diverse members of the aviation community including Aloft CEO, Jon Hegranes. They have joined the FAA in considering performance based regulatory requirements to normalize advanced UAS operations for the future. The ARC is delving into security constraints, environmental considerations, societal benefits and operational requirements to put together recommendations to the FAA in regards to future regulations on BVLOS operations. The ARC is scheduled to have their recommendations to the FAA by the end of 2021. The ARC’s recommendations will aid the FAA in creating a regulatory framework to allow for more routine and predictable BVLOS flights.

Following the conclusion of the Symposium, Aloft CEO Jon Hegranes hosted a webinar to demo Notify & Fly on the B4UFLY app followed by a live Q&A with the audience in participation with the FAA’s 3rd Annual Drone Safety Awareness Week. In a little over a week since release, the new Notify & Fly feature update on the FAA’s B4UFLY app has received 2,205 Notify & Fly submissions. Of those submissions over 80% have been recreational flights & over 11% commercial flights. Update your B4UFLY app today to start submitting Notify & Flys for your operations in uncontrolled airspace. Watch the entire webinar on-demand below.

Aloft was pleased to be able to participate and connect with the drone community for the third year of the FAA’s Drone Safety Awareness Week. If you weren’t able to attend the FAA Symposium Episode IV last week, we hope you found this overview informative about the current regulations for the UAS industry and what is coming in the future. As always, fly safe and fly often.