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LAANC Guide for Drone Pilots

Update 2/13/20: Updated to include additional information around DroneBase airspace waivers and how they are opening up opportunities for more flights in restricted airspace.

Since the LAANC beta began in 2017, we’ve gotten questions from pilots trying to apply for authorization. Here are some answers to common questions and tips and tricks we’ve picked up over that time.

What do the different authorization zones mean?

Applying for automated authorization should give automatic approval as long as your requested altitude is at or below the maximum height for that zone.

Applying for manual authorization requires an employee at the FAA to review and approve your flight. Typically, the wait times range between 3 and 30 days and therefore should be applied for as soon as you confirm your flight plan.

Automated authorization coming soon means that the FAA plans to but has not yet opened up this airspace for automated authorization. Treat it as a manual authorization zone and apply 3 to 30 days in advance.

Manual authorization coming soon refers to an area that the FAA plans to open up for manual authorization. You cannot request authorization through LAANC for that area and should reach out to the FAA directly.

Why was my automated authorization not approved?

The most common reason we see for rejection of automated authorization is the flight plan overlapping a more restrictive authorization zone (either a lower altitude requirement or manual authorization). You may either shrink the requested flight radius to only include the zone with the lesser restrictions or lower the requested altitude to match the more restrictive airspace zone and reapply.

Another common issue that we see is a request for a higher altitude than is allowed for automated authorization. It’s not always obvious that an issue has occurred as the authorization request will still be processed. However, it will be processed manually instead of automatically, meaning it is subject to a 3 to 30 day waiting period rather than instant approval. If you haven’t received automatic authorization double check that you have requested at or below the altitude ceiling.

Often, the specific reason for the rejection will be listed in the last page before you submit your request for authorization. Whatever the reason, you can usually adjust your flight plan to allow for the flight to be approved.

How can I maximize my chances of successful authorization?

Applying for authorization requires an internet connection. If you are unsure of the quality of cell service at the location for the shoot, you should apply for authorization in advance. In almost all instances, it’s better to apply for authorization in advance… the sooner the better. This applies to both automated and manual authorization.

You cannot apply for multiple authorizations in the same time slot. This can be an issue if you are planning multiple flights on the same day. Applying through the link our system provides will auto-fill the preflight checklist to our standard 11 am to 2 pm time slot. If you run into this issue you can cancel your current flight plan and reapply with different time slots for each flight.

Does DroneBase have Airspace Waivers on file when LAANC isn't an option?

Over the past year, our Operations team has been diligently working behind the scenes to gather airspace authorizations/waivers for multiple airports and classes of airspace. So how does this tie into LAANC? These authorizations give pilots in the DroneBase network the ability to fly locations in restricted airspace much faster and without the need to submit a request through the LAANC system. For ‘manual authorization’ or ‘automated authorization coming soon’, this could normally take between 3 and 30 days. 

When a location falls in restricted airspace for a DroneBase Mission and we have an existing authorization on file, a member of our Operations team will reach out to share a copy of the waiver. Our Operations team suggests you still check airspace restrictions prior to flying as locations that require a waiver are often close in proximity to an airport and can be subject to DJI geofencing. For more information on unlocking, check out our DJI Drone Unlock Guide for Drone Pilots.

Will I need to request LAANC authorization if I am flying with a waiver provided by DroneBase?

If a location falls in restricted airspace, and you’ve received a copy of an airspace waiver, you will not need to request LAANC approval. The waiver takes the place of the LAANC approval. However, our team strongly suggests you thoroughly review the waiver prior to scheduling the flight as each airport has its own requirements, for example, calling 15 minutes in advance of take or calling upon completion of the flight. At any time if you encounter issues with LAANC requests for authorization, airspace waivers, or have questions pertaining to airspace restrictions for a Client Mission, please reach out to

For more tips check our the LAANC Troubleshooting section of our FAQ.

Tags: Drone Pilots Drone Tips LAANC
Nick Osgood
Nick Osgood

Nick Osgood is the Head of Operations and first hire at DroneBase. He oversees all flight operations and drone pilots. Nick started his career in clean tech, then as a stand-in Director of Finance and Operations for over 15 Silicon Valley startups. He was previously the Treasurer & Director of Finance at StackCommerce where he led all finance, analytics, HR + recruiting, and customer support operations. Nick is the team’s in-house expert on drone industry news, regulations, and safety. He is very involved in the drone pilot community and passionate about growing the nascent drone industry. Nick earned his MBA and BS in Political Science from University of San Diego. He is very involved in the drone pilot community and passionate about growing the nascent drone industry.


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