Government has announced plans to lift a two-year-old ban on the importation of drones into the country, although a date has yet to be determined.
“It has been drawn to my attention that two years ago the importation of drones was suspended and that it was suspended because of the fact that we had no regulatory framework, which we still do not have, and there was no proper training of operators of drones,” Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds said during the 80th anniversary logo unveiling at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) today.
Symmonds said the ban could not be lifted until the necessary licensing process was put in place and provision made for training.
The then Democratic Labour Party administration implemented the ban in April, 2016, while making provisions for temporary exemptions on a case-by-case basis for the importation of drones meant to be shipped out of the country immediately after use.
It said at the time the ban was implemented to allow for the completion of a legal framework, which it reported in September last year was “at an advanced stage”, before extending the ban by a further 12 months in May of that year.
Symmonds today said the unmanned aircraft systems should not have been allowed here in the first place, without the right regulatory framework in place, while insisting that training should be offered in the use of drones, which critics say pose risks to safety, security and privacy if not properly regulated.
“There must be a point in time, and I think that point in time has now come, when we must take the lead in initiating the training of persons who are going to be using drones, and Government must set in place the regulatory framework, which this Government will now turn its mind to doing,” the minister said.
In this regard, Symmonds said a planned civil aviation school at GAIA to provide training, examination and invigilation in several areas relating to aviation, for locals as well as people from the region and internationally, would also cater to the training in drone use.
The number of drones in the island is unclear, a situation the minister said would change soon through the licencing process.
“I am anxious to make it work because obviously from a commercial perspective there is a lot of good business that can be done by companies around Barbados using drones. They are now used around the world for delivery for a lot of things. So it makes business faster and more efficient if we can do it by air. But we need to have the framework in place to legally do it so it does not affect other users, either land or air space,” he said.