FAA releases B4UFly App for Android

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The FAA started to require all drone pilots to register their drones. The didn’t post the guidelines clearly on their website and if you are a foreigner visiting the United States, you will be confused too. Read my post about “The Drama with the FAA and their UAS/Drone Registration“. They also released an app to plan your next flight and see where you can fly and where airspace restrictions are in place. However, the app was only released for iOS so far and the Android app was until now in a public beta.

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And yes the drama continues on Android. After finding that the iOS app is only available for U.S. Apple Accounts, the same is true for the Android version. You will need a U.S. Google Account to actually download the app. On Android, it’s not that bad, because you can have multiple accounts simultaneously on your device. Try that on iOS.

If you are a foreigner visiting the U.S. you would need to create a U.S. Account and ditch the App Store account you are currently using. I have to say again a “smart” move from the FAA. They think they know it all better, but they don’t. I am a bit annoyed about this.

Once you start the app, you will be greeted with their ToS, which you have to acknowledge. The ToS basically tell you that the information could be inaccurate and the FAA is not reliable if anything happens. Did you expect more from a government agency? I did! I was hoping this would be the to go app if you are a drone pilot. I hope they are not the same way in manned aircraft traffic. This makes me worry a little bit.

Typically the FAA gets informed about all the restrictions in air space and will make them accessible on their website. It would be awesome if that would be integrated into the app and if so, how. Because if a person has to manually add it to the app’s database, we are already years behind and the information would be outdated.

Then I tried to use the Planning-Mode, for planning future flights. This mode is still in early beta what it looks like. As for location, I used the current position. At my location, it showed a bunch of heliports and other “airports”. So I moved the map around towards where it shows no airport. If you do that, it will show you a point on the map that there is an airport, but it won’t show the 5-mile radius around the airport anymore. This makes it hard again to determine where you are actually safe to fly.

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Because I was within 5 miles of an airport, I got warned about that by the app. The app tells me that I have to contact the airport operator and the control tower if one exists at the location. Then below it showed a small form about how high, far and long I would like to fly. I can submit this B4UFly Data Collection form, but that does not count as “informing the airport operator and control tower”.

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If so, that would be a great step forward, which other, similar apps don’t provide.

Also loading the data, once you opened the app, takes forever. I am not used to that, but I could live with it. So far I am not too thrilled about the app, but let’s see what happens in the future. I hope the FAA will put some more effort into this and develops a great app. Also, the design needs some work. It looks more like a quick copy from iOS.

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