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Recent trip to Exuma, Bahamas. Interesting rules. Info and advise.

hawk3907

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I just returned from Exuma, Bahamas with my Mavic Pro. Below is a link to a little video I shot with my Mavic and GoPro.
I have traveled to the following locations with my Mavic Pro:
Alaska, USA
Cozomel, Mexico
Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Akumal, Mexico
Cancun, Mexico
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Turks and Caicos, British owned Territory
Exuma, Bahamas

Exuma is the only place I have been so far that has crazy rules about drones.
There are some specific rules that you are supposed to follow.

#1 you are supposed to get approval to import the drone. This step seems pretty pointless because you are supposed to pay a duty tax bond when you enter the country. 50% of the value of the drone ($700 for a Mavic Pro). They use Amazon to get an accurate price. Having an import and export approval does not get you out of the tax bond. You are supposed to get the bond back when you check your bags to return, as long as you have the receipt and the drone still with you. If you loose either you will not get the bond back because they will assume that you sold the drone.
If you don't pay the 50% tax bond they will confiscate your drone until you exit the country.
I have read about people not getting their bond back, but I saw 3 people get their bond back without issue.

#2 you have to get approval to fly your drone from the Bahamas civil aviation authority. This allows you to fly in their airspace. To get approval you have to email them the following:
Proof of purchase. A receipt, or a picture of your drone with the FAA numbers shown.
Your FAA numbers/ Licence
Your drone make and model
Your drone serial number.
Once you provide that information you will receive your approval letter in about 4-12 days.
In the approval letter is says the following:
(1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstance described in paragraph (2), except in accordance with a permission issued by the Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation.
(2) The circumstance referred to in paragraph (1) are-
(a) Within 5 nautical miles of any airport;
(b) At a height less than 200 ft;
(c) Over or within 150 meters of any congested or populated area;
(d) Over or within 150 meters of an organized open-air assembly of more than 100 persons
(e) Within 50 meters of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aerial vehicle, without special permission of the Owner;
(f) Within 50 meters of any person;
(g) Subject to (c) and (d), during takeoff or landing, a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not be flown within 30 meters of any person;
(h) Paragraphs (d) and (f) does not apply to the person in charge of the small unmanned surveillance aircraft, or a person under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft;
(i) A small unmanned aircraft means a small unmanned aircraft less than 15kg in weight used for personal recreation and for which any images or data collected (if so equipped) are not commercial gain.
(3) This validation shall remain valid for a period not to exceed Thirty [30] days from the date of issuance unless sooner removed, revoked or surrendered.

To get the approval to fly I emailed [email protected]. He was very nice to deal with.
The people I saw that declared their drones has to show they had approval from the Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation also. If you don't have approval they will confiscate your drone until you get approval. You can then go back to the airport and show them and pay the tax bond and take your drone. Because of the amount of time that it takes to get approval, I suggest you get it ahead of time.


When I read about all of this it was with pretty short notice. I luckly got my approval letter quickly from the Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation Department and away I went.
I have a hard sided case for my Mavic Pro and its pretty small. I decided to play it safe and put my drone case inside of my roller carry-on suitcase. When I walked up to the Exuma customs agent they asked several questions and one of them was "do you have a drone?" I answered "No" to all of the questions. They told us to enjoy our trip and we were outside in 4 steps.
If you have your drone in a drone case and they see a case that looks like ANYTHING but a normal carry on, they are going to ask you to open it. I watched them as a lady to open her beats headphones case because it was in her hand. I suggest you put it in a carry on suitcase and avoid paying.
I talked to a guy while I was there and he told me that last year he brought it Mavic Pro and was trying to land it on his boat after flying and it hit the shade bar do to the waves and dropped like a rock into the ocean and it was too deep for him to recover. He did not get his ($700) tax bond back when he left.

While in the country I kept a copy of my FAA licence and approval to fly in my case.
I never once had anyone say anything to me about flying. Every time I flew I made sure I was in a pretty low walk traffic area and if I wanted to fly where people would see the drone, they would not see me. I have had people yell at me before for flying because they think I am spying on them even though I am looking the other direction and no people have even been on my screen, so I play it safe on where I stand now.

When I left the country nobody asked about my drone.

I hope this helps anyone considering to go by plane.

If you arrive on a cruise ship it sounds like the rules don't really apply because there is not someone looking for drones with you leave the ship. I would however suggest that you play it safe and get the approval letter just in case you get asked by a police officer. I have read several places that they will ask for the approval letter.


 

hawk3907

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I was happy to not be bothered.
I am not sure when all of the rules came into place, but perhaps the police are used to it by now.

I typed it up because I also read all of the Trip Advisor pages before I left.
When I called them I was told that Gregory Edwards who was the head of Bahamas Department of Civil Aviation was no longer there. Ladario Brown seems to be the guy now.
I talked to all of the guys that I saw declare their drones and they told me what they went through. They were all out pretty quick so I waited around to ask them.
On the flight home there was 2 guys that brought drones. 1 declared it and got his tax bond back and one refused to pay the tax bond so they confiscated it and he got it back when he checked his bags after giving then the paperwork showing it was confiscated.
 

DougAles

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Jul 15, 2017
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Location
Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Bahamas Government Official, if you read this... this policy and this policy alone caused me, the head of my family, to divert our vacation from the
Bahamas and go to Akumal, Mexico.

Our previous vacation we also diverted from the
Bahamas and went to the Dominican Republic.

I’m close to booking our next vacation. Want me to come to the Bahamas? Then create a reasonable drone policy for tourists.

Thank you.

Doug Ales, frequent traveler.
 
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