National Security Minister Wayne Caines, informed MPs today that drones have been spotted in restricted airspace surrounding Bermuda; including the airport, despite a 2.3 mile no-fly zone being implemented earlier this month.
This after three drone sightings in recent weeks that were suspected of being attempts to drop drugs and other contraband inside prison walls at Westgate Correctional Facility.
Speaking on the floor of the House this morning, this Minister also stated that the airspace surrounding police headquarters in Prospect, Devonshire, were also off limits. And he urged drone owners to consider the privacy of property owners.
At this stage, however, he said there were no plans to ban drones in Bermuda.
In a Ministerial Statement on ‘No Fly Zones’, the Minister noted that “drones have become increasingly popular, and as technology advances, they are becoming more affordable and readily accessible to hobbyist and the general public”.
He also recalled the recent shutdown at Gatwick Airport “for several hours following a drone sighting in the surrounding airspace”.
“The ensuing aftermath led to several hours of airport delays as all planes were grounded while authorities worked to uncover the origins and intent of the drone’s presence.
“Recently,there have been drone sightings at the LF Wade International Airport. Although, often times drone operators intend no harm, flying unmanned aircraft in the airspace surrounding the airport presents a serious hazard to landing and departing aircraft. A crash between the two could result in a catastrophic event,” he said.
“It is therefore prudent, that measures be taken to ensure the safety and security of the air space surrounding the airport.
“On March 15th, 2019, a Direction was issued by the Director General of the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority that declares a no-fly zone in the 2 nautical miles radius surrounding the airport for drones that are 400 grams or heavier, microlights, gliders, airships and balloons. These Directions have been issued under Article 68 of the Air Navigation (Overseas Territory) Order,” he added.
“Similar no fly zones have also been implemented within a 125 metre radius at the Prospect Police Compound and at Westgate Correctional Facility. In recent weeks there have been at least three drone sightings at Westgate.
“There is suspicion that these drone operators are attempting to drop contraband inside the correctional facility property for inmates to collect. Members of the public are reminded that any attempt to introduce any form of contraband, whether illicit substances or not, is illegal. Any persons found to be attempting to introduce contraband will be arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law.”
Providing “some general guidance on drone usage”, Minister Caines said: “Drone operators, whether amateur, hobbyist, or professional, are reminded that they are responsible for the conduct of each flight. Before each flight, the operation should check the drone for damage and ensure that they will not be flying within 50 metres of a person, vehicle, building or structure.
“Drones should never be operated in congested areas. The drone should be in the sight of the operator at all times and must never fly above 400ft. Following these guidelines will help to avoid collisions. In all cases, permission must be sought to fly drones over property that is not your own. The right of privacy should always be respected. Further information on the safe and legal operation of drones can be found on the website of the Bermuda Civil Aviation Authority, www.bcaa.bm.”
While noting that “it is not the Government’s intent to prohibit the use of drones in Bermuda”, the Minister concluded, saying: “Safety and security must take priority.
“I encourage all drone operators to ensure that they are operating their crafts in accordance with published legislation and policy.”