Balloon Fiesta

Hundreds violate FAA's no drone fly zone at Balloon Fiesta

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - The Balloon Fiesta is one of the most photographed events in the world. Everyone wants to get that perfect shot, but some are breaking the law to get it. KRQE News 13 explains how hundreds of people are flying their drones in restricted areas at Balloon Fiesta.

Balloons are flying high across Albuquerque's sky in this year's Fiesta -- but what else is up in the air, is raising some red flags.

This year, Balloon Fiesta hired Phoenix-based Aerial Armor to monitor the sky for drones.

"Anytime you're flying a drone there's obviously a whole slew of risks that belong with that.. [you] may lose control over a crowd of people," said Aerial Armor's operation manager Brandon Lugo. "There could be some issues with drones, so obviously a danger." 

The FAA says it's forbidden to fly a drone within four miles of Fiesta Park. To find out if and where they're flying, Aerial Armor's drone detection technology is doing just that.

"At this event we are using a DJI Aeroscope System, which basically has a few different sensors that are set up around the field and monitoring radio frequency signals," said Lugo.

Aerial Armor can detect any drone within eleven miles, and any drone activity will pop up on a map. 

"We have a recorded flight path of the drone, we see the home point of the operator -- that's where the person is standing -- and we basically record it's entire flight," said Lugo.

Luckily for this pilot, they stayed out of the no fly zone, but that's not the case for many of the 458 drones detected within the past few days. Almost half crossed over into the no fly zone.

"It's kind of an eye opening thing to see all these data where previously we weren't able to," said Lugo.

This drone detection can also identify the serial number of the drone that's breaking the rules. The company said they'll pass along their findings to the FBI and local police after Fiesta is over.

No word yet from police or the FBI if any drone pilots have gotten into trouble for flying too close to Fiesta. Flying a drone illegally can carry fines and up to five years behind bars.


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