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Part 107 Pilots, Smart Controller and LAANC Questions

MRomine

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I have a Blanket Area Wide authorization from the FAA to fly commercially in my locale. That authorization ends in just under a month and the FAADroneZone is telling me that they no longer require an operational waiver under 14 CFR 107.205 but should use the LAANC automated capability in my locale. I knew this day was coming and it has now arrived.

My questions, what are the steps involved in getting the LAANC approval? How does that work or integrate with DJI and the Smart Controller? If I understand things correctly I have to obtain this authorization each time just prior to each flight? If that is the case how do you coordinate that with getting the DJI GEOfencing approval so that you can actually get some work done?
 

db4476

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As stated above, use the ALOFT app, click the +/add at bottom of screen, then Request LAANC. Takes just a few minutes to get approval with a reference #.

Cheers!
 

MRomine

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Can you guys answer the rest of the questions about integrating the LAANC request with DJI GEOFencing on the Smart controller? I understand that I can get the LAANC request/approval very quickly but what about GEOFencing to unlock the Drone so that I can fly?
 

db4476

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You can start here: DJI GEO Fencing

DJI is strict at times near airports and other areas even if you have a LAANC authorization, typically near runway approaches, and it can be frustrating at times.

Cheers!
 
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MARK (LI)

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I believe that when you go to settings and enter your maximum altitude for the flight that a screen will pop up telling you that you are assuming all exposure and responsibilities if you launch...click on authorize
 

MRomine

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You can start here: DJI GEO Fencing

DJI is strict at times near airports and other areas even if you have a LAANC authorization, typically near runway approaches, and it can be frustrating at times.

Cheers!
For sure. I have gotten DJI approvals before and it has taken anywhere from 24-72 hours for me to get an approval, especially if it is over the weekend. What I'm trying to figure out, because I have not done this yet, is the process of once getting a LAANC approval, which can be gotten almost instantaneously, how do you show DJI that you have such approval? In the past I simply sent the a copy of the PDF FAA wavier along with my Smart Controller SN to DJI and they electronically issued and remotely installed the unlocking license to my Smart Controller. Typically these have been for either a year or two years. So what happened now if I first have to get a LANNC approval, do I request that 72 hours before, get that approval and then contact DJI to get an unlocking license? If so this is going to be a major pain. I'm already about to ditch DJI products and find a competitor.
 

db4476

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DJI's method is nonsensical and a pia to do. I go with LAANC first because DJI's mapping does not match the FAA system at all anywhere I've been. Then unfortunately, you have to unlock through DJI which is slow and cumbersome, so you have to do it in advance.

"If so this is going to be a major pain. I'm already about to ditch DJI products and find a competitor."

Be aware that besides DJI Geofencing, Autel does the same but far less restrictive. I cannot speak for Skydio or Parrot Anafi drones as I do not fly them.

DJI's method is currently a mess for sure, and we can only hope it improves soon. For the best explanation I have seen, try this video...
DJI Authorization Zones vs FAA Airspace Approval

Cheers!
 
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MRomine

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DJI's method is nonsensical and a pia to do. I go with LAANC first because DJI's mapping does not match the FAA system at all anywhere I've been. Then unfortunately, you have to unlock through DJI which is slow and cumbersome, so you have to do it in advance.

"If so this is going to be a major pain. I'm already about to ditch DJI products and find a competitor."

Be aware that besides DJI Geofencing, Autel does the same but far less restrictive. I cannot speak for Skydio or Parrot Anafi drones as I do not fly them.

DJI's method is currently a mess for sure, and we can only hope it improves soon. For the best explanation I have seen, try this video...
DJI Authorization Zones vs FAA Airspace Approval

Cheers!
Have you ever gotten any of your drones unlocked, bypassing the DJI GEOFencing?
 

RGS2010

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Have you ever gotten any of your drones unlocked, bypassing the DJI GEOFencing?
I'm just beginning in the commercial aspect of my drone business and I just heard in the last week about unlocking the DJI geo-fencing. Now that goes against all of my instincts as far as messing with the firmware/software in a great drone but if it stops me from working, I would unlock it in a heartbeat. DJI needs to leave this sort of thing to the FAA and stay out of my business. Maybe even using proof of a certification like Part 107 in U.S. to give my drone a permanent get out of Geo-Fencing free download.
 
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Mandalorian1

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I am a FAA certified Part 107 commercial pilot. Using LAANC I've been able to obtain approval for what is considered a Restricted zone or airspace within close proximity to a major airport. Looking at the B4UFLY app you can see that my proposed area of flight was 0' max altitude. That being the case, I could still submit an automated LAANC request, but it goes into pending status for manual (ATC) review. I just recently did this for the first time and was surprised that it took only two business days to get approval, but I planned for days that were further out (the earliest flight date being a little over a week from my submission date). LAANC will state that they target a turnaround time of less than 30 days, but that it could take up to 90 days, so I wasn't sure I'd get any or all of my three flight dates approved given they were all within a <30-day window, so I was quite pleased with the manual review response being as quick as it was.

Now, per my DJI drone, just because I got the LAANC approval it did not mean that I could fly my Mini 2 on those approved dates in the restricted zones or airspace (they also showed up as red Restricted zones in the DJI Fly app). I had to go to DJI's Custom Unlock website and submit all three FAA approvals (marking out the zone on the map, adding dates, times, etc.). I use the Aloft app (Free, not Enterprise account), so I had to take a screenshot (PNG image files) of the approvals on my iPhone combining them also with the FAA approval emails I got (printed to PDF file format) and also uploaded each set relevant to each FAA approval to each of the three separate DJI custom unlock requests, I was going after. I possibly could have gotten by with either of the PDF or the PNG file, instead of both, but I was being extra judicious as it was the first time I was doing this. I figure that more information is better and more likely to get approval. DJI also gave me the impression that because of my type of submission, that it could take more time as well. However, DJI approved each in minutes, if not seconds. It didn't take long at all. After that, I could then import them into my Mini 2 setup. Now that I've been through the entire process, it really wasn't all that bad. You just need to plan ahead appropriately. I can't really offer any guarantee that your approval timelines will be similar to my own. It probably depends on airport and backlog of requests.

The only time it goes to manual review when using LAANC is when you are asking for altitude permission above what is specified for your proposed flight zone. In my case it was 0' max altitude. Hence, the required manual review. If it had been 200' max altitude for my flight zone and I only needed 200' max altitude per my request, it would be approved by LAANC normally in seconds (automated approval).
 
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MARK (LI)

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DJI needs to leave this sort of thing to the FAA and stay out of my business. Maybe even using proof of a certification like Part 107 in U.S. to give my drone a permanent get out of Geo-Fencing free download.
When you bought a DJI product, you gave them the green light to do so, just like the rest of us ....I believe that I read that autel does not have geofencing...something to look into for the next drone you consider
 

SethB

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I frequently fly in the same LAANC zones. I requested a 12 month unlock from DJI, and uploded my justification for the request, stating that every flight would be LAANC authorized, and a copy of a LAANC auth for that afternoon.

10 or 20 minutes later on a weekday, boom, I had custom unlocks for four different drones, good for a year.
 
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MRomine

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I frequently fly in the same LAANC zones. I requested a 12 month unlock from DJI, and uploded my justification for the request, stating that every flight would be LAANC authorized, and a copy of a LAANC auth for that afternoon.

10 or 20 minutes later on a weekday, boom, I had custom unlocks for four different drones, good for a year.
How do you do the custom 12 month unlock request? Do you make a written request in the comments box when requesting a custom unlock?
 

SethB

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I just followed the on-screen instructions. They’ve changed a little, obsoleting some Youtube videos. Guidance below will become outdated too. Starting at the beginning for those who are unfamiliar.
  1. Login at fly-safe.dji.com.
  2. Follow the process to certify your account if you didn’t do that previously. You will need to supply personal information for custom unlocks.
  3. Agree to terms/conditions to start the new request.
Follow the steps on screen… you’ll input lots of info, upload things, and specify the duration of the unlock.

Be prepared with your flight controller serial number. You only need that for the first request. The “draw on the map” zone didn’t work for me. I specified a lat/long and radius.
 
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RGS2010

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I frequently fly in the same LAANC zones. I requested a 12 month unlock from DJI, and uploded my justification for the request, stating that every flight would be LAANC authorized, and a copy of a LAANC auth for that afternoon.

10 or 20 minutes later on a weekday, boom, I had custom unlocks for four different drones, good for a year.
Sweet, I'll try that also!
 

MRomine

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The “draw on the map” zone didn’t work for me. I specified a lat/long and radius.
I was rereading your instructions and noticed this last comment. The "draw on the map" with a circle does not work in Safari for Mac for me. I had to switch to Chrome to get it to work and even then it is a bit finicky.
 
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