Drone Regulations in The Bahamas

04/24/2019

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General

1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?

A UAS is considered as an aircraft in The Bahamas. An aircraft is defined under the Civil Aviation Act, 2016 as a machine that can derive support in the atmosphere from the reactions of the air, other than the reactions of the air against the earth’s surface. The Bahamas has a regulatory framework which gives guidance on unmanned and remotely piloted aircraft.

2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?

The Bahamas Civil Aviation Authority (“the Authority”) regulates the operations of remotely piloted and unmanned aircraft operations in The Bahamas under the Bahamas Civil Aviation Act, 2016 and the Civil Aviation (General) Regulations, 2017 (“the Regulations”).

3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?

Under Bahamian law there is no distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”.

4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?

The Bahamas recognizes a distinction between a UAS used for recreational and hobby use and a UAS used for remuneration, compensation or aerial work. Schedule 27 as published by the Authority provides parameters for the use of a UAS for recreational and hobby use. Schedule 11 as published by the Authority stipulates requirements for use of a UAS for remuneration, compensation or aerial works.

5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?

The Bahamas recognizes a remotely piloted aircraft (“RPA”) as an unmanned aircraft that is piloted from a remote station and:

  • includes a radio-controlled model aircraft; but
  • does not include a control line model aircraft or a free flight model aircraft.

An “Unmanned Aircraft” is separately defined and broadly refers to an aircraft designed to operate with no pilot on board. The definition also includes remotely piloted aircraft but additionally embraces free flight model aircraft. There are no separate regulations for completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations – Safety

6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?

The safety of UAS operations are regulated under the Regulations and in particular Schedule 27 thereunder. Included in Schedule 27 are provisions for securing prior consent to overfly and for regulating proximity to persons, proximity to aerodromes and the dropping of articles.

7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?

The Regulations do not give express consideration to the rule 1 UAS = 1.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations – Licensing

8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?

No person may operate an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft unless, prior to flight in The Bahamas, the ownership of the UAS has been registered with the Authority.

An unregistered UAS brought into The Bahamas will be retained by the Bahamas Customs Department until registration is obtained.

The following steps must be taken in order for a Bahamian person to obtain the right to operate a UAS:

  • Application for a certificate of registration is made online.
  • The online generated certificate is signed by the applicant and is taken to the Bahamas Customs Department.
  • The Bahamas Customs Department will release the UAS once customs duties and other import related fees are paid.

The following steps must be taken in order for a Non-Bahamian person to obtain the right to operate a UAS:

  • Where the intended use of the UAS is for leisure, the applicant must fill out the prescribed application form and submit the completed form with supporting documentation to Safety Oversight (“Safety Oversight”) within the Authority. Safety Oversight will process the application and grant authorization.
  • Where the intended use of the UAS is for commercial use the applicant must fill out the prescribed application form and submit the completed form with supporting documentation to Air Transport Licensing. Air Transport Licensing will coordinate all relevant matters with Safety Oversight and will on satisfaction of all requirements provide a letter of authorization. It is anticipated that the letter of authorization will as a matter to procedure be replaced with a certificate of license.

9. Are there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?

At the date of this publication the only fees payable are in connection with the commercial use of a UAS. Fees are fixed at $80.00 per UAS and $80 per location of use for each UAS.

10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?

Under the Regulations a person may not operate an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft unless, prior to flight in The Bahamas

  • it has been issued an airworthiness certification by an authorized person or organization; or
  • it has been issued a Certificate of Airworthiness by the Authority.

Notwithstanding the above, at the date of publication, as a matter of practice, a Certificate of Airworthiness is not a requirement where a certificate of registration has been granted.

11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?

The Regulations provide at Schedule 11, Subpart L for specific requirements for authorization for the use of a UAS for remuneration, compensation or in aerial work. Services may be conducted once authorizations have been provided.

12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?

There are no nationality or ownership restrictions regarding control of a UAS. No person may however operate or pilot a UAS unless the operator and/or pilot has (1) current third-party liability insurance of claim levels acceptable to Air Transport Licencing for the level of risk; and (2) has evidence of that insurance in his personal possession at the time of flight. This however does not apply to an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft weighing less than 15 kg unless the operator or pilot has an incident involving failure to maintain compliance with the Regulations.

13. Is drone transport permitted / regulated in your country?

Drone transport for commercial use will be included in the definition for “commercial air transport” which means the carriage of passengers or cargo for hire or reward or other valuable consideration. Drone transport is not expressly prohibited in The Bahamas, but all requirements for registration and safe operations of a UAS will have to be observed.

Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) – Operations – Others

14. Is there a specific Data & Privacy Protection regulation applicable to UAS operations?

There are no specific Data & Privacy Protection regulations applicable to UAS operations.

15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?

There are no specific control-link interference regulations applicable to UAS operations. We note however, that Section 56 of the Civil Aviation Act, 2016 provides that the Authority shall have the power to prescribe and revise, as the Authority may deem necessary, minimum safety standards for the operation of air navigation facilities and services for preventing interference with the use or effectiveness of apparatus used in connection with air navigation, and securing the safety, efficiency and regularity of air navigation, the safety of an aircraft, and for preventing an aircraft from endangering other persons and property.

16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?

There are no specific rules regulating UAS manufacturers in The Bahamas.

17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from your country?

The following steps must be taken in order for a Non-Bahamian person to obtain the right to operate a UAS:

  • Where the intended use of the UAS if for leisure the applicant must fill out the prescribed application form and submit the completed form with supporting documentation to Safety Oversight within the Authority. Safety Oversight will process the application and grant authorization.
  • Where the intended use of the UAS is for commercial use the applicant must fill out the prescribed application form and submit the completed form with supporting documentation to Air Transport Licensing. Air Transport Licensing will coordinate all relevant matters with Safety Oversight. On a successful application Safety Oversight will provide an Aerial Works Certificate and Air Transport Licensing will issue a letter of authorization or a certificate of license.

We note also that no person may operate a remotely piloted aircraft system engaged in domestic or international air navigation in The Bahamas airspace without appropriate authorization from the State from which the take-off of the RPA is made. Further, no person may operate an RPA across the territory of The Bahamas without special authorization issued by The Bahamas. This authorization may be in the form of agreements between the States involved.

18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?

Fares and or pricing of UAS operations are not regulated in The Bahamas.

The Aircraft (“UAS”)

19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?

A UAS must be registered with the Authority. There is however, no particular register provided for in the Regulations referable to a UAS.

20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?

The Regulations do not provide for a particular register for a UAS. We note however that the name of the owner appears on the certificate of registration of a UAS.

21. Do requirements or limitations apply to the ownership of a UAS listed on your country’s register?

The Regulations do not provide for a particular register for a UAS. We note however that in order to secure the registration of ownership of a UAS the UAS must not be registered under the laws of a foreign country and legal evidence of ownership must be provided.

22. Do specific rules regulate the maintenance of UAS?

There are no rules which specifically regulate the maintenance of a UAS.

Operation Zones

23. Which are the operational and distance limitations for an aerial work with a UAS? Is there any kind of certificate or permission to operate beyond those limitations?

The operations involving aerial work are regulated by Schedule 11 Subpart L to the Regulations. The Regulations provide for an Aerial Work Certificate (AWC) with an authorization for Unmanned Aircraft Operations. Conditions for operations will be provided under the terms of the AWC. In such circumstances, operational and distance limitations will be provided under the terms of the authorization based on the nature of the application.

24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?

A UAS is not obliged to take-off from or land in specific facilities unless conditions for operation of the UAS are imposed by the authorization received from Air Transport Licensing.

25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?

A UAS may operate in airspace which is not restricted by relevant regulations

26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?

  • The operator or pilot of an aircraft must ensure that the UAS stays clear of airspace above persons who have not given consent to the flight being conducted over them. They should avoid operating above property without prior consent from (1) any persons occupying that property; or (2) the property owner.
  • The operator or pilot of a UAS shall not operate over a crowd or congested area of persons even when consent has been obtained from the property owner. The operator or pilot must maintain a distance between the UAS and a person of at least 50 feet laterally and 100 feet vertically; which will not however apply to persons assisting in the launch or recovery of the UAS.
  • The operator or pilot of a UAS shall not operate that aircraft when the visibility is less than 1 statute mile and the base of the lowest clouds is less than 500 feet from the surface.
  • The operator or pilot of the UAS shall not operate the UAS higher than 400 feet from the surface.
  • The operator or pilot of the UAS shall not operate the UAS at night unless it is operated indoors or in a continuous shielded operation.
  • The operator or pilot of a UAS shall not operate the aircraft within 8 km of an aerodrome.

We note that permission may be given by Air Transport Licensing or air traffic control in special circumstances to operate the UAS outside the established parameters.

27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?

The operator or pilot of a UAS shall not operate the UAS into the following airspace:

  • controlled airspace (Classes A, B, C, D, E, and F);
  • danger areas (except for an area specifically designated for unmanned aircraft usage);
  • prohibited areas;
  • restricted areas; and
  • wildlife protection areas.

28. Who provides air traffic control services for UAS in your country?

Air traffic control services are provided by The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Division, headed by a Director of Air Navigation Services.

Liability and Accidents

29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?

There are no special rules which apply to a UAS in respect of loss or damage to cargo. We note however that the Regulations require that no person may operate or pilot a UAS unless the operator or pilot has a current third-party liability insurance of claim levels acceptable to the Authority for the level of risk; and has evidence of that insurance in his personal possession at the time of flight. This however will not apply to an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft weighing less than 15 kg unless the operator or pilot has an incident involving failure to maintain compliance with certain regulations.

30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?

There are no rules which apply specially to a UAS in respect of liability for surface damage. We note however that the Regulations require that no person may operate or pilot a UAS unless the operator or pilot has a current third-party liability insurance of claim levels acceptable to the Authority for the level of risk; and has evidence of that insurance in his personal possession at the time of flight. This however will not apply to an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft weighing less than 15 kg unless the operator or pilot has an incident involving failure to maintain compliance with certain regulations. Further we note that generally, liability for damage caused by aircraft is provided for under Part IX of the Civil Aviation Act, 2016.

31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?

There is no mandatory accident and incident reporting system referable specifically to the operations of a UAS. We note however that the Civil Aviation (Investigations of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2017 outlines the requirements to be observed following civil aviation accidents and incidents.

32. What system and procedures are in place for the investigation of UAS accidents?

There are currently no special systems or procedures in place for the investigation of UAS accidents in The Bahamas. We note however that the Civil Aviation (Investigations of Air Accidents and Incidents) Regulations 2017 outlines the requirements to be observed following civil aviation accidents and incidents.

33. Are UAS operators obliged to have insurance for their operations? If so, which are their main features?

A person must not operate or pilot an unmanned and/or remotely piloted aircraft unless the operator and/or the pilot has current third-party liability insurance of claim levels acceptable to the Authority for the level of risk and has evidence of that insurance in his personal possession at the time of flight. No further specific details are provided for in the relevant regulations.

34. What is insured? The operator, the business or the aircraft?

Schedule 27 to the Regulations requires that the operator and/or the pilot have insurance against third party liability.

Financial Support and State Aid

35. Are there sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector? If not, do general state aid rules apply?

There are no sector-specific rules regulating direct or indirect financial support to companies by the government or government-controlled agencies or companies (state aid) in the UAS sector. Further there are no applicable general state aid rules.

36. What are the main principles of the stated aid rules applicable to the UAS sector?

There are no applicable general state aid rules.

37. Are there exemptions from the state aid rules or situations in which they do not apply?

There are no applicable general state aid rules.

38. Must clearance from the competition authorities be obtained before state aid may be granted?

There are no applicable general state aid rules.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Allen is chair of the firm’s Aviation Practice Group and currently serves as chairman of the Bahamas Air Transport Advisory Board. He has professional expertise in corporate and commercial law, real estate & development, aviation law and wealth management.

*Previously published in L2b Aviation Ltd., World Drone Regulations, April 2019

The information contained in this article is provided for the general interest of our readers, but is not intended to constitute legal advice. Clients and the general public are encouraged to seek specific advice on matters of concern. This article can in no way serve as a substitute in such cases.Copyright ©2019 Higgs & Johnson. All rights reserved.

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