I am going to the Bahamas shortly. I saw a video on Youtube in which the author's drone was confiscated at the airport by customs. He was able to retrieve it by paying a security deposit which he did not get back. This happened in 2015.
I called the Ministry of Finance and was told that I could email them my name, address, make & model of my drone, and its value and they would have my paperwork waiting for me at customs when I arrive. They want a security deposit worth 50% of the drone's value to get my clearance. The security deposit has to be paid in cash. Supposedly the deposit can be reclaimed when I leave. Can these folks be trusted?
I just returned from my trip to Nassau. I did bring along my drone BUT. I first contacted Whitney Kenny at the Ministry of Finance. I had contacted him to get permission to temporarily import my Mavic for personal use. I emailed a letter to him with my name, address entry and departure dates and the model name and serial number for my Mavic.
In return he emailed me an approval letter.
It said in part (I am leaving out my info):
This drone will be utilized for personal use during Mr. Villelli's vacation in the Bahamas. It is expected that all safety protocols will be adhered to.
Customs will require a cash deposit on this restricted item to ensure that it is exported at the end of your trip. This amount will be refunded in full on your departure from the country.
Approval granted is subject to guidelines from the Department of Civil Aviation and can be adjusted or cancelled at the sole discretion of the Department.
The Comptroller of Customs is advised by a copy of this communication.
Cc: The Comptroller
Bahamas Customs Department
Chief Operations Officer
Civil Aviation Department
I contacted Anthony Dean's office by email and attached a copy of this letter requesting information about receiving his approval to fly the Mavic in and around Nassau. But I never heard back from him.
When it came time to leave I decided to bring my drone along without receiving the information from the Civil Aviation Department.
When arriving in the Bahamas the first thing you do is go through Customs. My wife and I walked through with my Mavic in my backpack. We didn't say anything about it and customs didn't ask about it. We were through and I had my Mavic.
We spent our entire time except for 1 day in and around Atlantis. The first day I went out to video sunrise and found a grassy area from which to launch. Somehow, the "Sport"mode switch on the controller had been switched on (????). I couldn't figure out why I couldn't get into any of the regular modes that I like to fly in. I did the auto take off and then landed a number of times before I noticed a police officer watching and then approaching me. I put down the drone (I was inspecting it to see if there was a problem with it). His first question was "So, how far can you fly that?". We spent 45 minutes in friendly conversation taking about the drone and its capabilities. He was really interested in the drone and how it worked. He was a really nice guy and I apologized to him for not being able to properly fly it for him. I just didn't want to fly it until I figured out my 'problem'. I missed the sunrise!!! When I got back to my room I found the problem in less than 2 minutes.... Bummer.
I had one other encounter with the authorities. I was flying the drone over Atlantis @ 400' and approx 1300' away when a patrolling police officer told me that I was not allowed to fly a drone in the Bahamas without proper approval. I told him that it was registered with the Federal Aviation Agency and that I had received permission to import my drone and he thanked me and wished me a nice stay. I did not have a lot of time to get all the approvals I would have liked to have had. When I return I will start the application process earlier. But all in all it worked out just fine.
I did get some good footage and photos and will attach them when I get a chance to do some editing.