More Attention Needed on the Use of Drones

Her Excellency the Governor Elizabeth Carriere sent out a reminder recently that the use of drones without written permission was not allowed. However, the caution while necessary is shortsighted.

She made the call at her last press conference, citing an incident from last month’s St. Patrick’s Festival.

“Many people will have noticed a small unmanned aircraft (a drone) flying over the crowd on St. Patrick’s Day in Salem village last week.  Those who saw it will also have heard the on-stage announcement that it should be taken down and not flown over the crowd for safety reasons.  This incident, and a similar case of a drone flying over the Festival Parade at New Year and which was also close to the flight path to the airport, has prompted us to remind those on the island who own and use drones of the rules governing their use, which were publicised in the Montserrat Reporter on 11 March 2016 through the issuing of a Direction by the UK’s Air Safety Support International (ASSI) under the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013.

“The Direction prohibits the use of drones within the vicinity of John A Osborne Airport and is in addition to existing regulations that, among other conditions, state that drones must not be flown over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than 1,000 persons, within 50 metres of any person or within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure.  These three rules, which are legal requirements, were clearly breached on St Patrick’s Day.  In addition, no drone can be used for commercial purposes, including aerial photography, without obtaining written permission from ASSI,” Governor Carriere said.

What should be noted is that over the past year and moreso during the festival, there has been an increase in independent producers and television shows visiting the island to film short videos or full-length shows. They often use drones to capture footage as it reduces the cost of having to rent a helicopter to capture what they need from above. It is also less time consuming.

While the notice is public knowledge, there is no established policy which governs how television producers can work on island or process to receive permission (which they often don’t do) to fly their drones for what they consider short periods of time and to capture vital images.