AUVSI: FAA Announces Smartphone App for Drone Flyers


The FAA wants to make it easier for drone operators to know if they’re flying legally so on Wednesday, it announced a new geographically sensitive smartphone app that will instantly inform drone pilots if they’re legal to fly in the airspace they’re in. The new app is called B4UFly and will be available later this year, initially be for IOS devices. But in announcing the product, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said an Android version would likely be planned later.

The app builds on the Know-Before-You-Fly program the FAA announced late last year, in conjunction with industry partners including the Academy of Model Aeronautics, AUVSI and the Small UAV Coalition. That program, which is web-based, is an educational effort that informs non-aviation-savvy drone operators about airspace regulations and restrictions and provides guidance based on AMA model aircraft rules that have been in place for years.

The app knows its geographical position and can automatically determine if UAS flight is permitted in the area. Huerta and Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned aircraft office, said the app will be capable of real-time updates on special use airspace and other restrictions. If airports are nearby that require notification, the app provides the necessary contact data.

“Technology has made it so almost anyone can operate an unmanned vehicle without any prior aviation experience,” Huerta said. “At the same time, technology provide us with an opportunity to give these users the tools and the knowledge that they need to operate safely before they fly. This is a very simple and easy-to-use app that offers a basic safety question: Is it safe and is it legal fly my unmanned aircraft based on where I am right now.”