On April 27, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published more than 200 facility maps with additional maps to be published throughout the year. These maps are being used in an effort to streamline and automate the commercial drone authorization process as well as integrate the use of drones into the National Airspace System.
The pertinent statute is 14 CFR Part 107, which covers commercial drone usage requirements. In particular, Part 107 restricts commercial drone operation to Class G airspace unless a waiver is obtained. The FAA initially began issuing Part 107 waivers to drone operators back on August 29, 2016, but later found that many rejected applications included incorrect or incomplete information or that applicants requested too many waivers.
The facility maps that were published (which can be found here) will be used by FAA air traffic personnel to process Part 107 airspace authorization requests. In particular, the facility maps depict areas and altitudes near airports where unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can operate safely. Specifically, the published facility maps include one square mile grid cells that represent the distances Above Ground Level (AGL) up to 400 feet where drones may fly. Grid cells with zeroes indicate critical locations where no drone flights can be currently preauthorized without further coordination with the FAA.
The facility maps from the FAA are a resource that applicants should refer to when completing their airspace authorization applications. By tailoring applications using the information from the facility maps, this should simplify the application process and furthermore increase the likelihood that the application will be approved by the FAA.