Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or drones, have quickly gained popularity with the public. And as is so often the case with rapidly advancing technologies, it can be hard for the public to know legally what they can and can't do with the technology – or in the case of drones, where they can and can't fly. To help dispel confusion surrounding drone flights, the US FAA is beta testing its B4UFLY smartphone app, which tells users about any restrictions on unmanned aircraft they might want to fly in a particular area.
B4UFLY was released on August 28 to about 1,000 beta users from the public, government, and industry for a 60-day trial. With drones recently caught interfering with rescue services at fires and security alerts prompted by a rash of UAV sightings by pilots at airports, the FAA says the aim of the app is to encourage voluntary compliance with aviation regulations by packaging real-time, publicly available information in a user-friendly format.
Based on standing laws and regulations as well as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), the app provides red, orange, and, yellow status warnings regarding specific locations, the parameters of the warning, a Planner Mode for future flights and locations, and links to FAA information resources.
"The FAA is responsible for ensuring the safety of the flying public and people and property on the ground," says the authority. "We believe a key way to help people fly unmanned aircraft safely is to provide situational awareness to let them know where it’s not a good idea to fly because there might be a conflict in the airspace they’re flying in. That’s exactly what B4UFLY is designed to do."
The app is currently for iOS only and not yet available in the App Store, but the FAA says that a later app for general release will include both iOS and Android versions.