Drones, or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), are regarded as aircraft in the Bahamas, and may be operated for both recreational and commercial purposes. They are categorised according to their weight and the types of operations that they perform.

In order to fly an RPAS, the pilot must first apply for an RPAS operator certificate (ROC) from the Civil Aviation Authority Bahamas (CAAB). In order to obtain an ROC, the applicant must:

satisfy the Authority that he is able to conduct safe operations by the RPAS operator demonstrating an adequate organisation, method of control and supervision of flight operations, training programme as well as ground handling and maintenance arrangements consistent with the nature and extent of the operations specified and commensurate with the size, structure and complexity of the organisation.

The aircraft must be registered, and third-party liability insurance is mandatory for both commercial and private drones. The pilot must also comply with:

  • the Civil Aviation Act 2021; and
  • the Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs) – more specifically, CAR OPS 4 – Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Operations. The CARs set out operational and safety management obligations.

Aircraft will not be subject to CAR OPS 4 if they:

  • weigh less than 25 kilograms;
  • operate below 120 metres (400 feet) above ground level;
  • operate outside 1,000 metres of an operating airfield;
  • operate to a maximum range of 500 metres with visual line of sight; and
  • would not jeopardise the safety of people on the ground.

Exemptions may also be granted if the CAAB is "satisfied that there is a need and subject to compliance with any supplementary condition the Authority considers necessary in order to ensure an acceptable level of safety in the particular case".

RPAS must not be operated:

  • over private property, unless the pilot has the owner's permission;
  • over military installations, drone-free zones or nature reserves; or
  • at night or in bad weather with low visibility.

For further information on this topic please contact Llewellyn V Boyer-Cartwright at HarleyJames by telephone (+1 242 327 7275) or email ([email protected]). The HarleyJames website can be accessed at www.harleyjames.law.