Most of you will remember that we brought to your attention a few months ago, an attempt by some commercial drone operations to change the right of way rules to allow drones operating BVLOS, or beyond visual line of sight, to have the right of way over all other aircraft. What that means to balloons is that a drone, the size of a washing machine, and weighing over 90 lbs, traveling in excess of 60 mph, could fly directly into your balloon without having any means to detect that you may be in its flight path, and YOU would be at fault. This is because they would have the right of way. The BFA and other organizations made public comment to attempt to stop this madness. The BFA, AOPA, and many other users of Class G airspace below 400 feet, where these drones intend to operate, have been monitoring this situation since our public outcry, during which we warned these operators that they were going to cause an accident and that they would be at fault because of the lack of the very inexpensive modification of detect and avoid.
Please see the attached call for public comment. It appears that the drone industry intends to adopt a detect and avoid system for some of these drones, but it seems that they are intending to use these to avoid collisions between drones. They have not said that they are for the intent fo detecting other non ADS-B objects in their path. Further, in the last section of this latest call for comment, they are still asking for the right of way in what is called a “shielded” area. They fail to define this area, which seems to indicate that they are still wanting to change the right of way rules anyway, but are restricting that right of way to areas yet to be designated. Please also see Kent Barnes graphic below showing 11 drone-related NOTAMs that show how this process works. It seems to blanket the flying area used by balloons in this area. Effectively this is just another way of grabbing control and right of way from balloons without them defining where “shielded” airspace will be.
Once again, we need your help to send public comment on this subject. Please do this within the next 15 days as the comments period of 20 days has already started. BFA will work with all other aviation concerns to put an end to this blatant attempt to change the current right of way rules..
Pat Cannon, BFA President