Local business people seeking to import drones say they are in the dark about Government’s timeline for lifting an almost three-year-old importation ban, as they tout the commercial benefits of unmanned air vehicles against concerns over the hazards of reckless recreational flyers.
They revealed their concerns to Barbados TODAY as aviation officials and interest groups got a glimpse of a new drone technology on the market on the Garrison Savannah, the site of the first manned demonstration flight here in 1913.
Geographical information systems consulting firm, GeoOrbis, which offers geospatial project management, application development and mapping hosted a drone demonstration flight for a Delair UX11 model drone on the savannah.
Barbados TODAY understands that special permission was granted by the Prime Minister’s Office for the demonstration which was showcased to land surveyors, engineers, architects and various technocrats in Government.
The Democratic Labour Party administration had banned the importation of drones back in April 2016. Despite a promise by Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Kerrie Symmonds that the new government intended to lift the ban, a date has not been set.
Symmonds said last July said the ban could not be lifted until the necessary licensing process was put in place and provision made for training.
GeoOrbis’ Managing Director Craig Batstone, said he did not know whether Government had made any progress on overturning the ban. He predicted that the demand for drone use, particularly for commercial purposes, would significantly increase.
Batstone told Barbados TODAY: “I think you’re going to see a lot more drone usage in Barbados going forward because they are becoming more popular both in government applications and private sector applications, engineering, surveying and construction.
“So we’ve partnered with GISCAD out of Trinidad to offer the drones . . . just to make the local market aware of it and just so there’s a local option for bringing in this technology.”
The UX11 drone system is said to be capable of producing highly precise and safe mapping in industries such as surveying, construction, oil & gas, utilities, mining, agriculture and transportation. It delivers integrated features for before, during and after flight operations, including an embedded global shutter camera, intuitive analytics and data reporting tools and post processed kinematic (PPK) capabilities for high quality results.
“There are different levels of technology that you can use starting at satellite imagery down to aerial photography and then drone level. So each one of those has a different application and very often the drones are used for very site-specific applications or to fill in gaps from aerial work or satellite imagery work,” Batstone said of the swiftly improving technology.
While indicating that he could not speak for Government, Batstone said he believed Government was most concerned with the recreational use of drones as opposed to professional level drones, adding: “But that’s for the Government, not for me.
“I don’t have any problems with the regulations in place because they’re mostly safety regulations to ensure that any drone operation is done safely and efficiently.
“I agreed with the initial ban because you didn’t want a hundred or a thousand drones just flying all over the place with no controls in place. Barbados isn’t the only country struggling with how to manage and control the use of the drones, so I will leave it to the Government to decide how to best to handle that, but there definitely needs to be controls in place.”