Categorized | Business, National News

Aviation Lawyer: Bahamas Has Chance to ‘Get Out in Front’ In Drone Legislation

Two recent close calls between unmanned aerial vehicles and passenger aircraft on the same day – one incident on the approach into New York’s busy LaGuardia airport, the other in California – drew international attention to the increasingly pressing issue about what to do with growing numbers of remotely-controlled drones in crowded airspace.

Now, a Bahamian aviation lawyer and consultant says The Bahamas has a chance to get out in front with drone legislation.
Callenders partner Llewellyn Boyer-Cartwright said the prolific growth in the use of UAVs is leading to an increased need for legislation that would establish rules and regulations governing them in Bahamian air space.

Currently, there are no proscribed or published guidelines to assist commercial or recreational UAV operators,” said Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, who is concerned that it is only a matter of time before a close call becomes a call that was a little too close.

“There have been 15 cases of seriously close calls reported by pilots over the past two years, according to a recent report in the Washington Post,” said Mr. Boyer-Cartwright. “That same report tracked 47 Class A military crashes in the U.S., 23 civilian crashes reported by public agencies and 236 serious accidents. Those are very startling figures. If we were to talk about that number with respect to train, taxi or jitney crashes, all operating without any rules of the road, there would be a public outcry to get these vehicles under control. But with UAVs, regulators appear to be hesitant. We all know something has to be done, but few are saying, ‘We’regoing to get a handle on this and here’s the legislation.’’’

That absence of legislation while the FAA continues to study how best to approach the problem of unmanned aerial vehicles whizzing around the skies presents an opportunity for The Bahamas, says Mr. Boyer-Cartwright.

“With the impending establishment of a Civil Aviation Authority, The Bahamas is well-positioned to formulate legislation, regulations and guidelines for the expanding unmanned aerial vehicle industry,” said the former commercial pilot. “Australia and Canada have UAV legislation. Italy’s regulations came into force just this past April 30. The US is still in the discussion stages and meantime, Amazon is asking permission to start delivering packages by UAVs and in the United Arab Emirates, they are experimenting with delivering government documents by drone. The timing is perfect for The Bahamas.”

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright, who has actively promoted the establishment of a Bahamas International Aircraft Registry and has been invited to speak at several aviation conferences in the past two years, also represents a local UAV photography company, Sky High Media. They, too, have called for regulation.

Lance Knowles and George Mosko, Jr, who own Sky High Media, have invested in highly sophisticated camera platforms mounted on multi-rotor UAVs. Commissioned by government agencies, security companies, major resorts, real estate developments, they are even called to provide work for movie sets. They’ve done shoots in Florida for Busch Gardens and Sea World and provided photographic evidence for oil spills.

But while they are taking the business of unmanned photography to new heights, they worry that an unregulated atmosphere could lead to an explosion in the popularity of drones with hobbyists failing to recognize or honour rules of the airways.

“It may sound strange to ask for regulations where none exist,” said Mr. Mosko. “But for us, this is very serious business. We have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Nowadays, you can buy a drone off the shelf at a hobby store for less than $1,000 so you can imagine the chaos that could erupt in the skies if the quickly evolving industry is not regulated.”

Mr. Boyer-Cartwright said drone regulation is one further example of how The Bahamas stands to benefit for an expanded aviation sector.

“Whether for military or civilian use, commercial or private, UAVs are fast becoming an integral aspect of aviation. The sooner we can acknowledge and address this fast-growing industry, the better The Bahamas will be positioned to be among those considering this jurisdiction for aviation-related purposes and all of that contributes to a better and more diverse economy with entrepreneurial opportunities.”

Written by Jones Bahamas

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