Guidelines to Radio Amateurs for launching High Altitude Balloons carrying Amateur Radio Payloads
Air Space in South Africa is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and managed by the Central Aviation Monitoring Unit (CAMU).
The Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) are responsible for the efficient running of South Africa’s airspace environment.
Regulations does allow for flexible use of airspace by users, but a process of application and cooperation is regulated and controlled by CAMU.
The purpose of this document is to assist Radio Amateur Radio operators with the intention of launching meteorological balloons and other experiments into high altitude with guidelines on best practice.
It may be revised from time to time and has been negotiated with the management of CAMU who will guide amateur users on the correct methodology for engaging air space.
- Procedure for applying for permission of Flexible Use of Airspace
Any applicant wishing to launch a high altitude balloon should apply for flexible use of airspace (FUA) via the CAMU website at www.atns.co.za
The regulated area of airspace known as controlled airspace ranges from 20 000 Ft to 46 000Ft above ground level (AGL).
In this band commercial air traffic are controlled by ATNS and airspace has to be sterile for commercial air traffic to pass.
The following conditions for consideration should guide any applicant:
- Your flight should take place from a registered airfield.
- You should launch no less than 60 km outside of TMA (Terminal Maneuver Area)
- ATNS no longer only makes use of corridors as they did in the past. Flight corridors are GPS orientated and covers the length and breadth of SA.
- The direction and speed of prevailing winds for the intended launch area and time of year.
- Generally balloon launches should target areas in the North West towards Vryburg as this is the least active air traffic corridor in South Africa.
- Launch Procedure
On the day of the launch the launch coordinator is required to be in regular contact with the assigned CAMU specialist.
Intention to launch should be given as per the provided guidelines on the CAMU application. Contact details and names will be provided.
Once permission is obtained from CAMU and ATC to launch, the payload can be released. The ascent rate should be such that maximum ascent rate can be obtained by the payload.
When the payload hits 18 000 Ft, CAMU should be advised via phone of the position and height of the payload.
If a glider is attached to the payload it must be released before 20 000 ft. Release must be coordinated with CAMU so they take not of the increased ascent rate of the payload and the area wherein the glider is moving.
When the balloon payload passes through 46 000 ft. CAMU needs to be advised as this will allow air traffic to flow freely in the area.
If there is an intended separation of the payload this must be communicated to CAMU with the application.
When the payload has hit its ceiling height CAMU needs to be notified that the payload is at apogee and returning to terra firma.
Some payloads may make use of neutral buoyancy to increase the flight duration of the payload. AS long as the payload remains above 46 000 ft this is not a problem.
When the payload however descends, CAMU is to be advised at 60 000 ft that the payload is coming down. After CAMU has liaised with ATC that the payload is to be dropped, the payload must be placed in a direct descent at 50 000 ft, bringing it through controlled airspace as soon as possible. This implies that parachutes and streamers used should be deployed at this stage.
Once the payload or glider has touched down CAMU must receive a final notification in order for them to close the NOTAM and allow for normal continuance of ATC activities.
Although flexible use of airspace is allowed, it should be noted that this is a privilege and not a right.
Flexible use of airspace impacts on air traffic control over the whole controlled air space spectrum. Flights have to be delayed and diverted. A balloon over Vereeniging in controlled airspace impacts on the departure of several commercial flights from Durban and other destinations.
Radio amateurs and any other agencies wishing to make use of flexible use of airspace should liaise closely with the CAMU unit at ATNS.
For more information please feel free to contact the HABEX team as we volunteer our experience and invite any opportunity to launch a balloon in the stratosphere.
- Glossary of Terms
Controlled Airspace – 20 000 ft – 46 000 ft.
HABEX – High Altitude Balloon Experiment
BACAR – Balloon Carrying Amateur Radio
HAG – High Altitude Glider
ATNS –Air Traffic Navigation Services
CAMU – Central Aviation Monitoring Unit