Drone Pilots Violating FAA Restrictions While Trying to Capture Hot Air Balloon Photos

The City of Albuquerque will host to The 47th Annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This annual event attracts over 100,000 hot air balloon enthusiasts from all over the world to witness over 500 balloons take flight. An event of such a magnitude has numerous logistical and operational challenges.

During the fiesta’s 46 year history, some unfortunate tragedies have been witnessed. The biggest disaster in the event’s history happened in 1982 when a 12-story hot air balloon nicknamed El Globo Grande exploded, killing four people and injuring five. Over the years, the most common incidences reported involved the balloons colliding with power lines.

Although the Fiesta’s organizers will still have to worry about such safety issues, the advancement in technology has brought with it newer challenges. For this years’ event organizers are anticipating having to create safety plans for drones. Drone pilots will definitely be attending the festival with the hopes of capturing the perfect aerial photo. Drones pose a great risk to hot air balloons. Being able to control the direction of a hot air balloon is not something that can be changed quickly during an emergency situation. If a drone gets in the way of a balloon, it can pierce it’s fabric and even cause the balloon to crash.

To deal with this problem, organizers of the Fiesta have hired a security agency called Aerial Armor. This agency utilizes a DJI Aeroscope, an innovative technology that helps them detect drones and monitor their flight paths. A DJI Aeroscope is effective over a 10-mile radius, making it the perfect technology for the hot air balloon show.

To improve safety even further, the FAA has implemented a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR). This restriction covers a radius of 4 miles within the Fiesta Park. Despite the TFR, Aerial Armor reports that close to 300 drones have already violated the airspace, and the number is still rising. This is because the Balloon Fiesta remains one of the most popular events for photographers. From the photographer’s perspective, the use of a drone is the best way to get the perfect aerial shot of the hot air balloons.

Despite the TFR, one drone pilot has been authorized to photograph the event. His name is Jesse Sansom, the owner of Colibri Media House. DroneDj reports that he will be flying the DJI Matrice 600, fitted with a high quality Canon camera. Even though he is authorized to fly his drone, even he won’t be flying over the crowds or near the hot air balloons. Aerial Armor has committed to publish the data on all the drones that violate the TFR during the Fiesta, including serial numbers, flight paths and GPS data. Possible consequences for violation include a fine or prison time.

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