I’ve reached out to the FAA in regards to the legalities surrounding launching balloons and received a call back from a gentleman in the Tampa office last week. Overall he was very helpful and pointed me to the same portion of the regulations I had been looking over. Based on section 101.1 and 101.31 of the FAA code regarding balloons it appears I can launch the balloon without notifying air traffic control and do not need to worry about the type of airspace I’m launching from based on a few rules.
According to the exceptions listed in 101.1 of the FAA code, as long as I do not exceed the items listed in section 4, the balloon will not apply to the sections, in particular 101.31, following:
101.1 Applicability. (4) Except as provided for in 101.7, any unmanned free balloon that- (i) Carries a payload package that weighs more than four pounds and has a weight/size ratio of more than three ounces per square inch on any surface of the package, determined by dividing the total weight in ounces of the payload package by the area in square inches of its smallest surface; (ii) Carries a payload package that weighs more than six pounds; (iii) Carries a payload, of two or more packages, that weighs more than 12 pounds; or (iv) Uses a rope or other device for suspension of the payload that requires an impact force of more than 50 pounds to separate the suspended payload from the balloon. (b) For the purposes of this part, a gyroglider attached to a vehicle on the surface of the earth is considered to be a kite.
In my case, sections (i), (ii), and (iv) apply so as long as I keep below six pounds, use ropes that will break on a impact of less than 50 pounds, and check to make sure my weight/size ration meets section (i), then the balloon will be exempt from 101.31.
This is good news and will make choosing a launch point easier as well as reducing the complexity of notifying a number of governing bodies on launch day.
I’ve also obtained my first camera via Craigsist and have the parachute for the fall back to earth. I’m aiming for a mid October launch.