My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: JCAA Drones Regulations - Why GOJ Double-Standard suggest Commercial Drone Pilot Licenses are coming

Friday, August 14, 2015

JCAA Drones Regulations - Why GOJ Double-Standard suggest Commercial Drone Pilot Licenses are coming

The JCAA (Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority) is now following in the footsteps of their American counterparts, the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority).

They've now decided that anyone in Jamaica that needs to use a Drone, a type of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) for any purpose must now get a permit as reported in the article “Civil Aviation Authority Clamps Down On Drones”, published Thursday August 13, 2015, The Jamaica Gleaner.

Referred to by the FAA as UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) in their regulations handed down in February 2015 as reported in my blog article entitled
 “FAA's Regulations for Drones - How UAS Benefit American Economy despite Restrictive FAA Regulations by 2016”, these Drones are becoming increasingly  popular in Jamaica, both for commercial as well as non-commercial or recreational use.

These rules, which have been around since Monday April 20th 2015 as reported in the article “Jamaica Sets Rules For UAV Flights”, published Tue, Apr 28, 2015, Aero News, are detailed in Important Advisory to Operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Flight Safety Notification General (FSN-GN-2015-01R1)

Drones for Commercial usages – JCAA requires Flight plan and  Special Aerial Work Permit

Despite this, interested parties involved in agriculture, media production and commercial photographers such as companies like SkyCam Jamaica a described in my Geezam blog article entitled “Skycam Jamaica Aerial Photography marks possible Revival of Package Delivery in the Jamaica Postal Service”  are using  Drones for commercial purposes.

Fearing collision with registered aircraft within their airspace as well as the potential for Drones to be used to spy on Jamaicans (read Ministers of Government), the JCAA had put in place a Special Aerial Work Permit that a Drone operator has to apply for each time they used their Drone.

Think of it as being similar to applying for a license to have a party in Jamaica; each time you host a party, you have to send in an application for a special aerial work permit. You must provide the JCAA in writing and provide a detailed flight plan!

This no doubt is a temporary situation that may soon be replaced with a formal licensing structure. But based on the regulations laid down thus far, the GOJ via the JCAA may be seeking to regulate the fledgling Drone Industry in Jamaica for the purposes of taxation.

This as a Commercial Drone Industry is slowly developing in Jamaica that revolves around Research and Development into designing Drones using local materials here in Jamaica!

JCAA Develops Drones Regulations - Special aerial work permit to fly Drones for Recreational purposes only

Under the new JCAA guidelines a Drone is defined as an unmanned power-driven aircraft that's designed to fly without a human operator on board. This definition excludes model aircraft, fireworks, kites, Model Rockets and large unmanned free balloons.

Which is just as well, as there are competitions that can be made from these as well as there are currently industries that revolve around the use of stratospheric balloons, such as meteorology. As for recreational usage of Drones, to protect the general public and aircraft, the JCAA has developed the following guidelines:

1.      122 m (400 ft) above ground level is the ceiling
2.      500 m (1640 ft) is the maximum flying range
3.      152 m (500 ft) or more distance between Drones and organized open-air assembly of people
4.      50 m (165 ft) or more distance from any individual
5.      5000 m (16,500 ft) of any aerodrome or airport

Basically this restricts the operation of Drones to within VLOS (Visual Line of Sight), meaning that FPV (First Person Viewing) isn’t allowed. Aside from these considerations when filing a flight plan for your Drones, there are some caveats that must also be observed when operating Drones:

1.      Drones should not be operated over a private or public property or dwelling
2.      Drones should not be operated at night or during low visibility conditions
3.      Drones should not be operated with the intention of delivering items
4.      Drones should not be operated within or over restricted or prohibited airspace
5.      Drones should not be operated using FPV (First Persons View) Devices

These regulations are really more to regulate than aiding the developement of a Drone Industry in Jamaica and are very restrictive. In fact, they do not allow for the development of Commercial uses for Drones and effectively restrict you to flying your Drone in own back yard.  

The JCAA inspectors and law enforcement officers are allegedly now empowered to step in should they see a breach of these basic regulations that place the lives of Jamaicans in danger or if the operator is operating their Drones contrary to these regulations.

All accidents and indicants involving the Drones will have to be reported to the JCAA so that a cause can be determined and corrective action taken.

It'll be interesting to see exactly how they'll be able to do this, as there is no law against flying a Drone in Jamaica as this is just JCAA Regulations and not binding law with clear penalties, fines or punishments.

JCAA Regulations are restrictive – GOJ Double-Standard suggest they plan to develop a Drone Industry

So the JCAA, in a heavy handed, almost autocratic approach, has created a Special aerial work permit and has laid down restrictions on Drones.

This as it has become increasingly clear that the airways aren’t safe due to the ageing equiptment being used by the ATC (Air Traffic Controllers) as explained in the article “Jamaica's Airspace Is Safe, Says Civil Aviation Authority”, published Wednesday August 12, 2015 by Gary Spaulding, The Jamaica Gleaner

All without any clear laws being mentioned in either the Important Advisory to Operators of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Flight Safety Notification General (FSN-GN-2015-01R1) advisories issued since Monday April 20th 2015 to govern the fledgling Commercial Drone Industry.

Whether or not any specific Laws will be put in place to govern the developement of a Drone Developer and Design community in Jamaica is yet to be seen, as these regulations are very stifling to the development of a Commercial Drone Industry in Jamaica!

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture, a Ministry of the Government of Jamaica, has plans to develope Drones to combat Praedial Larceny as reported in my blog article entitled “Jamaican Drone Contractors Testing Drones in Pedro Cays – Why Ministry of Agriculture needs Drones to catch Poachers in the Act”.

Already the Jamaican Police are being allowed to use Drones in Montego Bay, St. James to help with their crime fighting efforts as reported in my blog article entitled “Eye in the Sky Project in Montego Bay – How Drones reduce Crime in St James in 6 months as NAITS Initiative gets Rebooted”. 

But based on the interest conveyed and the speed with which the JCAA has acted, rest assured that the GOJ may be looking to pass a law to regulate and profit from a fledgling Drone Developer and Design Community.

This would be in much the same way they passed the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 to decriminalize marijuana possession and pave the way for a legal Marijuana Industry as reported in my blog article entitled “Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act 2015 now an actionable Law - How Marijuana being Decriminalized only benefits Politicians”.  

The two are actually connected, at least from an agriculture point of view. More will be published on my blog as the GOJ, acting through the JCAA begins what may be the first steps towards a Drone Developer and Design Industry.

Here’s the link:

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