Balloon Fiesta officials keep hard stance on drones


By Matt Howerton

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —Balloon Fiesta officials are once again asking visitors to not bring unmanned drones or unmanned aircraft systems in fear they may disrupt the safety of this year’s event.

Officials took a hard stance on drones last year, saying they could potentially interfere with balloon aircraft and cause an unwanted collision or dangerous situation for pilots, passengers and the crowd below.

Drones are becoming more popular for recreation use. Many people use them to film video or take photographs.

Balloon Fiesta spokesperson Tom Garrity said people can use drones as long as they keep them outside of the festival’s 3-mile airspace radius.

The Federal Aviation Administration and other federal officials monitored the skies at last year’s event and said Monday that they had minimal issues with drone users in 2014.

The FAA will be monitoring the event again this year.

Garrity said that those who flew them were dealt with quickly and whatever drone they were flying were brought down.

“We had a couple of folks who pushed the envelope and we were able to identify where they were and talk to them,” Garrity said.

A spokesperson for the FAA said he was not aware of any citations or penalties given out at last year’s event, and said education has been their primary focus so far.

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