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The Inside Scoop on B4UFLY

By Tom Hoffmann
Source: FAA Safety Briefing

For over a year now, the FAA’s free B4UFLY app has been helping improve safety and situational awareness for unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operators throughout the country. As of late February 2017, nearly 180,000 smartphone users have downloaded this easy-to-use app (available in both the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store) which gives users clear information on where they should and should not fly their drones. B4UFLY is designed with simplicity in mind, and focuses more on hobbyist drone operators who may not be as familiar with national airspace restraints and restrictions, and where there might be conflicts.

For those new to B4UFLY, or who would like a refresher on its features, allow me to break it down.

before you fly app

After downloading and opening the app, you will see four main tabs across the bottom of the screen. The app defaults to the Status page, which uses your phone’s location services to show a flight status at your current location. The four possible options include: 1) Flight Prohibited; 2) Warning — Action Required; 3) User Caution — Check Restrictions; and, 4) Data Unavailable. Tap the “More Status Information” button for more specifics about your location. The restrictions depicted may be based on airspace types, proximity to airports, temporary flight restrictions (TFRs), or other federal laws and regulations. If restrictions exist, the app will specify and provide further details applicable to your area. It is important to note that any remote pilot can use the B4UFLY app, however some of the information and warnings provided may not apply to those operating for work or hire under 14 CFR part 107.

Next is the Map page, which shows a real-time overlay of airports and flight restrictions in your immediate area. If you only want to see certain restrictions, like controlled airspace boundaries or TFRs, the settings button at the top of the screen allows you to toggle layers on or off and customize your view. A search bar on the map screen also lets you search and save other areas on the map.

The Planner page lets you check flight requirements and restrictions for a future flight in your choice of location. Just select the location, date, and time and hit Start.”

Finally, the More page provides a list of helpful UAS resources and regulatory information, as well as a mechanism for providing feedback on the app.

That last point is important, as the FAA relies on feedback to make changes and enhancements that can improve the user experience for B4UFLY. This is especially true when it comes to airport data. Occasionally, an airport that closes may still appear on the map, so please be sure to report any of these instances you might come across. The FAA is working to improve this feature, and is making bug fixes and other changes that will improve the functionality and display capability of the map. Another planned enhancement based on user feedback and expected soon will be a more explicit notification of what type of airspace you’re operating in, (i.e., Class B, C, D, etc.).

For more information, see the FAA’s B4UFLY page at www.faa.gov/uas/where_to_fly/b4ufly/ and FAQ page at https://go.usa.gov/xXCvC.

Tom Hoffmann is the managing editor of FAA Safety Briefing. He is a commercial pilot and holds an A&P certificate.