FAA releases B4UFLy app

By Ann Bailey | January 07, 2016

After several months of testing, the Federal Aviation Administration has released the B4UFLY mobile app to the public.

Michael Huerta, FAA administrator announced on Jan. 6 the public release of B4UFLY, an app that tells users about upcoming requirements or restrictions in areas of the national airspace system where they want to operate UAS. The FAA had released a beta form of B4UFLY for testing several months ago. One thousand UAS users received the beta form of the app which primarily is for model aircraft enthusiasts.

The mobile application is available for Apple devices and can be downloaded from the App Store. Besides the B4UFLY app released Jan. 6, the FAA also released a beta version for Android devices which can be downloaded from Google.

The FAA hopes that by using B4UFLY, conflicts between manned and unmanned aircrafts will be reduced. The agency is concerned about the increase of reports of unsafe operations of unmanned aircraft near airports, over people and near manned aircraft.

Although, B4UFLY is targeted at hobby or recreational UAV pilots, the FAA believes that civil and commercial operators will find aspects of B4UFLY useful. The FAA expects B4UFLY to help raise public awareness about what it means to safely operate unmanned aircraft, according to an FAA news release. The app is an important part of the agency’s education and awareness efforts to encourage the UAS community to operate UAS safely and be accountable, Huerta said at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

FAA has made improvements, based on user feedback, to B4UFLY since releasing the beta version of the app in May, the agency said. For example, within two taps, users know if it is safe to fly at their locations. The app provides a status indicator that tells users “Proceed with caution,” “Warning – Action Required” or “Flight Prohibited.” The app also has a planner mode that allows users to select an alternate time and location for an upcoming flight and determine if there are any restrictions at that same place and time.

Hobbyists who want to fly within five miles of an airport, by law, must notify the airport operator and the airport’s traffic controller, if it has one, before they fly. The B4UFLY mobile app, for now, will ask users to who are supposed to notify the airport before flying for voluntary information about their planned flights. This will not meet the statutory requirement to notify the airport and air traffic control facility, but the data will help the agency make informed policy decisions related to notification. This information will not be publicly available.

Some other notable features of the App are informative, interactive maps with filtering options, information on the parameters that drive the status indicator and links to other FAA UAS resources and regulatory information.