FAA restricts drones around hot air balloon festival
It may seem like common sense, but the Federal Aviation Administration nonetheless has had to declare a No Drone Zone at the site of the world’s largest hot air balloon festival.
This year’s Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta will take place October 6 – 14 at Balloon Fiesta Park. It is expected to draw more than 500 hot air balloons.
The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) area put in place by the FAA prohibits drones within a 4 nautical-mile-radius of Balloon Fiesta Park up to 2,700 feet in altitude from 5:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. local time each day. During these times, drone cannot fly without FAA authorization.
Drone blades could damage the skin of a hot air balloon. A drone could also do serious damage if it struck the balloon’s fuel tanks.
In a 2018 incident, a drone repeatedly struck the outer membrane of a balloon, eventually incurring enough damage to itself that it fell to the ground. The drone operator proved to be inexperienced drone operator, operating in a restricted zone of airspace, and without direct sight of the machine.
The FAA says it will partner with local, state and federal law enforcement to actively look for illegal drone operations at and around Balloon Fiesta Park. Flying a drone within the restricted area without permission could get the operators $30,000 in civil penalties, plus potential criminal prosecution.
Balloon operators and spectators at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta who see a drone flying can report it to event staff, local law enforcement, or call the event command center directly.
Drone pilots should check the FAA’s B4UFLY app to determine when and where they can safely fly.