Contributor: Vivienne M. Gouthro and Keith O. Major, Jr.
1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?
A UAS is referred to as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (“RPA”) in Bahamian legislative parlance and is considered as an aircraft in The Bahamas. An aircraft is defined under the Civil Aviation Act, 2021 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 RPAs.
2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?
The Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas (“the Authority” or “CAA-B”) regulates the
operations of remotely piloted and autonomous aircraft operations in The Bahamas under the Civil Aviation Act, 2021 and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Operations Regulations, 2017 (“CAR OPS 4”).
3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?
Under Bahamian law there is presently no distinction between “State RPAs” and “Private RPAs”.
4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?
The Bahamas does not recognizes a distinction between a RPAs used for recreational and hobby use and a RPAs used for remuneration, compensation or aerial work. CAR OPS 4 provides for standard obligations such as airworthiness, safety and security for all RPA operations. Additionally, CAR OPS 4 then distinguishes and provides further obligations such as manual logs and minimum equipment lists for RPAs of a greater weight.
5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?
The Bahamas recognizes a RPA as an unmanned aircraft that is piloted from a remote pilot station. CAR OPS 4 goes on to define an autonomous aircraft as an unmanned aircraft that does not allow pilot intervention in the management of the flight. Despite the distinction in the Regulations, there are no separate regulations for completely autonomous aircraft and RPAs.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety
6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?
CAR OPS 4 obligates an operator of a remotely piloted aircraft system (“RPAS”) with the safe conduct of all operations. CAR OPS 4 also makes the existence of a Safety Management System Manual a condition precedent for a RPAS Operator Certificate (“ROC”) being issued. An RPA is not to be operated outside of the terms and conditions of an ROC issued in respect of the relevant RPA. In order for the continued validity of an ROC, the holder has a continuing obligation to satisfy the CAA-B that the holder is able to conduct safe operations.
7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?
Yes, CAR OPS at 4.201 (g) provides that the RPAS operator shall designate and authorize one remote pilot to act as remote pilot-in-command (“PIC”). However, it also provides that the RPAS operator if approved may establish appropriate policies and procedures in the Operations Manual to allow a pilot to transfer PIC responsibilities to another. However, even in this instance, only one remote pilot may hold remote PIC responsibility at any given time. Further, at 4.204 (a) the CAR OPS 4 provides that a remote PIC shall have responsibility over one aircraft only at a given time.
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 a RPA unless, it has been issued a ROC in respect of the same.
An applicant for an ROC must:
1. satisfy the CAA-B that it is able to conduct safe operations through:
a. an adequate organization,
b. method of control,
c. supervision of flight operations,
d. training programs, and
e. ground handling and maintenance arrangements.
2. have a nominated Accountable Manager and compliance personnel
3. provide a Safety Management System (RPAs greater than 150 kg);
4. conduct a risk assessment; (RPAs less than 150 kg); and
5. demonstrate its ability to comply with all applicable regulations.
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 any detained RPA once customs duties and other import related fees are paid.
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 RPA. Fees are fixed at $80.00 per RPA and $80 per location of use for each RPA.
10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?
At 4.402 CAR OPS 4 provides that an RPA with a maximum take-off mass (“MTOM”) greater than 150 kg shall not be operated outside the requirements of the terms of its certificate of airworthiness. 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?
Access to the market for the provision of RPA services is not regulated beyond the requirement of an ROC being first obtained.
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 RPA.
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 thereby expressly envisioned by 4.001 (a) of CAR OPS 4. All requirements for registration and safe operations of a RPA 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 RPA operations.
15. Is there a specific control-link interference regulation applicable to UAS operations?
At 4.902 CAR OPS 4 provides that following any act of unlawful interference, the PIC shall submit a report to the CAA-B.
16. Do specific rules regulate UAS manufacturers?
There are no specific rules regulating RPA manufacturers in The Bahamas.
17. What requirements must a foreign UAS operator satisfy in order to operate to or from your country?
No person may operate a RPA 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. Pursuant to CAR OPS 4 4.004 the request for authorization shall be made to the CAA-B not less than seven (7) days before the date of the intended flight, unless otherwise specified.
18. Are fares or pricing of UAS operations regulated and, if so, how?
Fares and or pricing of RPA operations are not regulated in The Bahamas.
The Aircraft (“UAS”)
19. Must UAS be registered in any particular register?
A RPA must be registered with the Authority, if it is intended to be domiciled in The Bahamas. There is however, no particular register provided for in the Regulations referable to a RPA.
20. Who is entitled to be mentioned in the UAS register?
The Regulations do not provide for a particular register for a RPA. We note however that the name of the owner appears on the certificate of registration of a RPA.
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 RPA. We note however that in order to secure the registration of ownership of a RPA the RPA 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?
Yes, Chapter 8 of CAR OPS 4 provides specific rules which regulate the maintenance of RPAs.
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 CAR OPS 4 does not prescribe standard operational and distance limitations for aerial work, as such the requisite limits, if any, to be applied would be included with the conditions from the issuing authority.
24. Are UAS obliged to take off from and/or land in specific facilities?
A RPA is not obliged to take-off from or land in specific facilities unless conditions for operation of the RPA are imposed by the authorization received from Air Transport Licensing at the CAA-B.
25. Which kind of airspaces are UAS permitted to operate with?
A RPA may operate in airspace which is not restricted by the relevant ROC issued. The RPAS operator certificate and its associated operations specifications shall define the operations for which an operator is authorised.
26. Which airspaces are restricted for UAS?
The CAR OPS 4 does not provide standardized restrictions on the operations of RPA. 4.105 (c) provides that the operation specifications associated with the RPAS operator certificate shall contain at least the following information;
(1) the description of the types of operations authorised;
(2) the type(s) or model(s) of RPA authorised for use;
(3) the models and locations of RPS authorised for use;
(4) the authorised base of operations, segregated areas of operation, or segregated routes;
(5) limitations, including height (AGL) restrictions and obstacle proximity; and
Typical operational restrictions to be included in an ROC are as follows:
1. The operator or pilot of an aircraft must ensure that the RPA 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.
2. The operator or pilot of a RPA 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 RPA 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 RPA.
3. The operator or pilot of a RPA 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.
4. The operator or pilot of the RPA shall not operate the RPA higher than 400 feet from the surface.
5. The operator or pilot of the RPA shall not operate the RPA at night unless it is operated indoors or in a continuous shielded operation.
6. The operator or pilot of a RPA shall not operate the aircraft within 8 km of an aerodrome.
We note that permission may be given by Air Transport Licensing of CAA-B or The Bahamas Air Navigation Services Authority (“BANSA”) in special circumstances to operate the RPA outside the established parameters.
27. Which zones are UAS operations banned?
There are no standardized zones where RPA operations are banned. However, the ROC issued in respect of an RPA may stipulate banned zones.
28. Who provides air traffic control services for UAS in your country?
All air traffic control services are provided by BANSA.
Liability and Accidents
29. Are there any special rules in respect of loss or damage to cargo?
4.306 of the Regulations imposes a reporting obligation upon a PIC of any “accident involving the RPA that results in serious injury or death of any person or substantial damage to the aircraft or property”. Aside from this, there are no special rules which apply to a RPA in respect of loss or damage to cargo. We note however that the
Regulations require that no person may operate or pilot a RPA 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 a RPA weighing less than 25 kg.
30. Are there any special rules about the liability of UAS operators for surface damage?
There are no rules which apply specially to a RPA in respect of liability for surface damage.
31. Is there a mandatory accident and incident reporting system and, if so, how does it operate?
Yes, Regulation 4.306 imposes a reporting obligation upon a PIC of any “accident involving the RPA that results in serious injury or death of any person or substantial damage to the aircraft or property”.
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 RPA accidents in The Bahamas. We note however that the Aircraft Accident Investigation Authority Act, 2019 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 a RPA 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?
The requirement in the Regulations do not specify whether the insurance policy is to relate to the operator, the business or the aircraft; but it does require the same to be at an acceptable level in accordance with the operation.
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. Generally, provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2018 require that state aid, be managed prudently in accordance with general principles of fiscal management. Holders of public office are required to expend public money in a manner which is fiscally sustainable.
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.
As at 30th November 2021.