Altaeros Energies recently completed tests of a 35-ft scale prototype of its Airborne Wind Turbine (AWT) for remote locations, which will harness energy at altitudes above 1,000 feet.
(Source: Altaeros Energies)
I have a sneaking suspicion that this new innovative device will cause the FAA rules, as currently drafted, to consider some updating.Obviously, this type of craft was not in the thoughts of the authors at the time of its writing. Ah, Change is Good !
Surveillence radar and cameras have been regularly flying on balloons up to 15,000 feet (e.g., USAF Tethered Aerostat Radar System)
I seems to me that 14CFR Part 101 mostly defines what people can do with out FAA oversight (or ATC corrdination, flight cetificaiton, or licencing), e.g., defining what actions do not infringe on airspace.
re: "temporary", let's just call it a portable installation, but yes, I could see their design in use in a permanant installation.
cf., the proposed San Luis downdraft towers are around 3000ft.
So many of the FARs are interrelated. The 500' altitude limit on the balloon is probably there because that is the lowest cruising altitude over an uncongested area. In that way an aircraft can't possibly stumble into the balloon. The same goes for the 500' below any cloud restriction, which is the same restriction that VFR pilots fly by. I really think the only way to permit the balloons to fly higher, safely, would be to create a restricted airspace for them. With so much risk and so much cost, I'm not sure it's a better solution than a ground based windmill.
One thing that fascinates me about wind power its intrinsic multi-purpose impact.Like oil well fields, most of the ground is unoccupied by the wind turbines (but with much more power per tower than per well).Oil production, wind production, beef production*, grain production*, and wildlife habit*, may all occupy the same space. Additionally a wind tower or balloon may provide other services that such structures perform (elevation of communication tranceivers, cameras, and radar)
The aerostat turbines bring two additional factors to this: greater power density (if not greater efficiency) and transience. For all of the expense of building a tower, you have to repeat the expense if you need to move it – Tethered balloon turbines may be relocated seasonally, annually, or contingently in response to seasonal, climatic, or other variations in demand or wind.
*(Presuming complementary modern intensive grazing management and no-till practices)
Definitely a lot of considerations in this design. I think it's a pretty clever bit of engineering - however I'm willing to bet that between regulatory requirements, safety hazards and other usage issues (maintenance, lightning, etc.), that the road to market for this technology will be significantly higher than for other alternative energy approaches I've seen. It might even prove fatal for this approach . I think it's a brave vision nonetheless.
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