New FAA Rules For Airborne Energy Systems

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With more experimenters seeking to test airborne wind-energy systems aloft, the FAA said on Wednesday it has revised its policy to ensure the safety of the national airspace. The experiments no longer will be evaluated under the rules that govern moored balloons; instead, they must comply with the rules for structures exceeding 200 feet above ground level. "The purpose of this change in policy is to allow for the continued development of this emerging technology and to provide the FAA with data regarding these devices so that the safety and integrity of the NAS is maintained," the FAA said.

Every deployment must be OK'd by the FAA and meet certain criteria -- each system must be moored to a single fixed ground location, testing is confined to heights at or below 499 AGL, daylight ops only, and the system must be marked in a way that is "conspicuous to the flying public." The agency will study each request on a case-by-case basis, evaluating the device's design and operation, how much airspace it affects, the radar cross-section, and reflection coefficient. The FAA said it is "concerned with these differing attributes and their unknown impacts to the NAS, navigable airspace, and to the flying public." The new policy applies only to experimental systems, the FAA said. Proposals for permanent and operational airborne systems "will be addressed in the future" with further evaluations and risk assessments. The FAA invites comment on its proposed policy change by Feb. 6.