Regulations in the United States and Other Countries

The United States represents a quite liberal set of conditions for SFAP, as regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Tethered platforms, such as balloons, blimps, and kites, may be flown up to 500 feet (150 m) above the ground without a special permit in most circumstances. Flying such platforms higher requires filing a flight plan with the nearest airport. On the other hand, manned aircraft should not be flown below 500 feet height in the countryside and not below 1000 feet (300 m) in urban areas.

The airspace is available for public access, except where restricted for military, security, safety, environmental, or wildlife-habitat reasons (see Fig. 14-2). No private land owner may limit overflights for the purpose of taking aerial photographs; however, land owners may restrict access to their properties on the ground. "Posted, no trespassing" signs are commonplace. For all ground operations, it is recommended to obtain prior approval from local authorities or land owners for launching and landing SFAP platforms, as well as approved vehicle parking, equipment setup location, etc.

Flying-height regulations differ considerably in individual countries elsewhere. In the United Kingdom, for example, normal flying ceiling for tethered kites is only 60 m, which is not enough height for many SFAP purposes. Special application to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is required to fly higher, but the application procedure may take three weeks for approval. In Spain, where model aircraft come under the regulation of a royal decree to article 151 of the aviation law (artículo 151 de la Ley sobre Navegación Aerea), unmanned aircraft—balloons, model airplanes, and rockets—may ascend up to 300 m without authorization, provided they are more than 10 km away from airports and feature some sort of self-destruction or deflation mode in case of remote-control failure or tether line rupture. For all exceptions, permission by the AENA (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegacion Aerea, Dto. Coordination Operativa del Espacio Aereo) is required, and additional approval is necessary by the military if the study site is located in militarily sensitive areas.

India is a country well-known for strict security; in fact, taking any kind of aerial photograph is prohibited under nearly all circumstances. In order to conduct kite aerial photography, Chorier had to obtain permissions from various governmental agencies, and he had to carry permits with him or risk arrest by local police which happened several times (Chorier and Mehta, 2007). The Khumb Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world, takes place every 12 years at the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati rivers. He was authorized to take kite aerial photographs of preparations for the celebration, but not the actual Kumbh Mela, whereas all other types of aerial photography, even military, were ruled out by officials. In other cases known to the authors, people who attempted SFAP met with stiff resistance from Indian authorities.

Land ownership rights vary substantially in other countries. In Slovakia, for example, the public is allowed into harvested or fallow agricultural fields, as long as the ground is not disturbed. Farmers may not restrict access; such fields are often convenient places for SFAP operation. However, the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia and

FIGURE 9-19 Kite aerial photography in Tatra National Park, Poland. Left: zezwo-lenie (permission) to conduct kite aerial photography for geological applications in Tatrzanski Park Narodowy (TPN). Permit was approved in April 2007 for a limited period of KAP, July 15-August 15, 2007. Below: panoramic view toward northwest over Skupniow Uplaz ridge (lower center) in the Polish Tatra Mountains (Aber et al., 2008).

FIGURE 9-19 Kite aerial photography in Tatra National Park, Poland. Left: zezwo-lenie (permission) to conduct kite aerial photography for geological applications in Tatrzanski Park Narodowy (TPN). Permit was approved in April 2007 for a limited period of KAP, July 15-August 15, 2007. Below: panoramic view toward northwest over Skupniow Uplaz ridge (lower center) in the Polish Tatra Mountains (Aber et al., 2008).

Poland are protected in national parks; all public, commercial, and scientific activities within these parks are strictly regulated. Obtaining permission requires the assistance of local colleagues and may take considerable time, even months, to arrange in advance. Necessary permits must be carried in the field at all times while conducting SFAP in these circumstances (Fig. 9-19), and it is best to have local colleagues along to explain the SFAP mission.

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