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New, free flight planning LAANC software for AMA members

Membership has its privileges. And if you’re a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and fly a drone, there’s something new — and free — for you.

You’ve likely heard of LAANC by now. If not, no worries. The acronym stands for the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. It’s a collaborative effort between the Federal Aviation Administration and the industry in order to support the integration of Unmanned Aerial Systems into the national airspace. You can think of it as a data exchange that lets drone pilots know where they can fly (and where they’re not supposed to fly), as well as providing air traffic professionals with information about where drone operations are taking place.

Now, an app with that LAANC functionality is being offered free of charge to AMA members.

How does it work?

Well, let’s take a look at this nifty FAA gif:

Don’t you just love GIFs?

We’ll take this straight from the FAA:

LAANC automates the application and approval process for airspace authorizations. Through automated applications developed by an FAA Approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS) pilots apply for an airspace authorization. Requests are checked against multiple airspace data sources in the FAA UAS Data Exchange such as UAS Facility Maps, Special Use Airspace data, Airports and Airspace Classes, as well as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) and Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs). If approved, pilots can receive their authorization in near-real time. Unless specifically requested in an authorization, drone pilots do not need to notify the tower before they fly. LAANC provides airspace authorizations only. Pilots must still check NOTAMs, weather conditions, and abide by all airspace restrictions.

FAA Website


The app is a partnership between the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) and UASidekick. It means that up to 175,000 drone pilots who are members of the AMA will have access to software that will allow them to file LAANC authorizations when flying in controlled airspace.

From the UASidekick website…

The app can be accessed both as a mobile application and as a web app. The software also includes weather information, interactive maps, flight logs, and other tools.

One of our top priorities is helping hobbyists comply with evolving regulations. We are proud to partner with UASidekick, which has developed the leading technology to help recreational and commercial pilots secure necessary approvals from the FAA and plan safe flights. This cutting-edge technology will hopefully make the safe operation of UAS a little bit easier for our community.

Chad Budreau, Executive Director of AMA.

There’s more, from the other half of this partnership:

At UASidekick, we have always been committed to the “Safer Skies” mindset and working closely with industry professionals like AMA. We are confident that the hobbyist community will find immense value in the quick and easy access to the regulatory system that our software provides. Our goal is to provide streamlined authorization services and flight planning tools that make flying safer and less burdensome for AMA’s community.

Nathan Ruff, CEO and Cofounder of UASidekick.

This version of the UASidekick app won’t include full functionality. However, AMA members will be able to purchase the full version at a significant discount. And finally, the news release says that UASidekick will be integrating information about AMA’s flying sites across the US, as well as future UAS events, into its map functionality information. The release also says the two partners “will provide training webinars to help UAS pilots understand the airspace and flight restrictions, as well as informational webinars on the industry and changing regulations.”

Sounds like a cool initiative. And anything that puts more information into the hands of drone pilots — and the people who monitor our airspace — is a good thing.