Skip to main content

FAA App Tells Drone Pilots Where It's Safe to Fly

The number of drones entering restricted or unsafe airspace has, as seen by an explosion of news reports, grown exponentially in the last year. Some U.S. states are now working on legislation to combat the problem. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration is beta-testing an iPhone app, called B4UFLY, that will tell drone pilots where not to send unmanned aircraft.

Users can input potential flight plans, or just check a current location, to see if the airspace around them is deemed safe. Three flight-status indicator lights (red, orange or yellow) tell the user of any regulations that may be in effect. If, for instance, you're within 5 miles of an airport and plan to fly a drone, the app will alert you that you're required by law to contact the air-traffic-control tower to alert it to your presence. Or  you could just not fly there.

MORE: Best Drones - Top Rated Quadcopters on the Market

The app also includes regular updates for temporary flight restrictions, such as those put in place around wildfires. Earlier this year, drone flights led to several California wildfires burning out of control, as water-dropping aircraft could not fly safely. In one such instance, a $75,000 reward is being offered to catch the pilots responsible.

Approximately 1,000 beta testers -- including industry professional, government officials and the public -- are testing the app, and beta-testing is expected to last between 60 days and a few months. Currently all the available test spots are filled, but the FAA is maintaining a waitlist.

To apply, send an email message to b4ufly@faa.gov. The fully released app is expected before the end of the year. An Android version of the app is reportedly in the works.

Anna Attkisson
Anna Attkisson is the editorial director at Tom's IT Pro. After getting infected with the tech bug at Wireless World and Cellular Business magazines as an intern in 1998, Anna Attkisson went on to dabble in a sorts of publications covering everything from children’s fashion to cars. During the last 9 years she’s returned to her roots where she’s been writing and editing for Laptop Mag and Tom’s Guide, before moving on to Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Anna Attkisson at @akattkisson.