A new version of a much-maligned FAA app called B4UFLY is live this week. The app aims to help people decipher FAA recreational flight rules in the real world by pointing out where they can fly in a location-responsive app. Developers hope the reboot flies much higher than the original.
It's a solid concept. Drone rules are complex, and local restrictions are tough to stay abreast of. Unfortunately, government agencies are not known to be nimble technology developers. The original app had a 1.5/5 rating in the iOS App Store. In March, I included several of the negative comments the app has earned in a writeup on the reboot effort.
Fortunately for the FAA, help has come in the form of a company very much invested in aligning itself with the government agency. Kittyhawk, which makes drone software, offered to redevelop the app in partnership with the FAA to make it ... useable.
The new B4UFLY is being positioned as a tool to help drone operators in the safe integration of unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System (NAS). There's a race underway to integrate drones into the NAS.
The new version uses Dynamic Airspace, Kittyhawk's airspace controller for managing real-time flight restrictions, authorizations, and guidance. B4UFLY programmatically consumes FAA data sources for controlled airspace, special use airspace, critical infrastructure, airports, national parks, military training routes, and temporary flight restrictions.
Based on location, B4UFLY provides simple, easy to understand airspace guidance that includes Good to Go, Warning and Do Not Fly. The app also provides links to helpful UAS educational content, safety resources, and LAANC, the FAA's Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability for obtaining authorizations to fly in controlled airspace.
"B4UFLY is a hallmark of our commitment to ensuring drones are safely integrated into the NAS. Our partnership on B4UFLY with Kittyhawk represents the kind of public-private partnership that is essential to advance this burgeoning industry. As the skies become more crowded and UAS operations become more complex, basic airspace situational awareness, especially for the newest of fliers, will be essential," said Jay Merkle, Executive Director, FAA UAS Integration Office.
Kittyhawk plans to add capabilities to future B4UFLY updates, including capabilities for the weather, Remote ID, and additional data layers for uses in public safety, natural disasters, and emergency response.
"Kittyhawk was the birthplace of manned aviation, and we're proud to continue that legacy of innovation with the new B4UFLY app," said Jon Hegranes, Kittyhawk CEO and Founder. "While the Wright brothers had a vast and soft landing area, drone pilots face sometimes complex rules and restrictions that can change quickly. Our goal with B4UFLY is to make knowing when and how you should fly simple, quick, and reliable."