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Civil Aviation Authority clamps down on drones

Published:Wednesday | August 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Land and housing developers, utility companies, persons involved in large-scale agriculture, media production and commercial photographers are among those who must now get a permit to use drones and other unmanned aerial devices or face a penalty or a fine if the matter is brought to court.

An unmanned aerial device, under the new regulations, is defined as a power-driven aircraft, other than a model aircraft, that is designed to fly without a human operator on board.

Fireworks, kites, rockets and large unmanned free balloons are excluded from the definition.

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) has advised that it is clamping down on the use of the devices, in order to address issues of aviation safety and security, national security and privacy.

The JCAA said commercial operators must apply for a special aerial work permit each time the device will be used.

And the state agency says application must be made in writing and the applicant should provide all details of the intended flight.

Strict guidelines

The authority noted that there has been a proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles in Jamaica, and there is a need to reduce risks to the country's airspace and the public in general.

Regarding recreational users, these persons must stick to strict guidelines if they are to use drones, model aircraft and other similar devices.

The JCAA has mandated that these devices must not be flown at a height exceeding 400 feet or 122 metres above ground level; beyond a maximum range of 1640 feet or 500 metres; over or within 500 feet or 152 metres of an organised open-air assembly of people; nor over or within 165 feet or 50 metres of any person.

Among other things, the guidelines also stipulate that an aerial device should not be operated over a private or public property or dwelling, without prior permission; at night or during low visibility conditions; with the intention of dropping or discharging any items to the ground; and within or over restricted or prohibited airspace.

The JCAA said all users must cease operating the devices once it is apparent that there is a safety hazard and should not resume operation until the risk has been resolved.

And the authority said all accidents or incidents that occur while using the device must be reported to the agency so that the cause can be determined and corrective measures implemented.

The agency said JCAA inspectors and law enforcement officers have the authority to intervene at any time when devices are being operated to ensure that their use is in keeping with regulations.