Commercial drone use approved in Cayman


By: James Whittaker

The first approval for the commercial use of drones in Cayman’s air space has been granted.

AirVu, which will initially specialize in aerial photography and videography, was given permission by the Civil Aviation Authority on Aug. 1 to operate small, unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes.

Alastair Robertson, director of air navigation services regulation at the Civil Aviation Authority, said businesses that want to use drones have to satisfy the Authority that they are a “fit and proper organization” that knows how to safely operate the aircraft.

He said there are numerous potential applications for drones, but the CAA needs to ensure that anyone operating in Cayman’s air space does so safely.

“We recognize the vast improvements in technology that make these things potentially much more useful than they used to be. We are open minded, but the bottom line for us is safety,” he said. “If someone demonstrates that they can operate [the aircraft] safely, then we will consider it.”

There is no official requirement for formal training to operate drones, but the CAA indicates that they would prefer to see evidence that applicants have completed a course. The authority also recently granted a license on a one-time basis to the Department of Environment to conduct survey work, with a drone operated by an experienced visiting specialist.

Adam Cockerill, who set up AirVu, said he was “over the moon” after getting the green light to begin operations following a year-long process of satisfying the regulatory body. He said the business is initially focusing on providing images and video for the real estate industry but could branch out to other areas.

Mr. Cockerill believes the possibilities for drones to be used in Cayman in the future is potentially endless – from aiding police search and rescue missions to aerial image mapping.

In the U.S., mail-order retail giant Amazon is looking into using drones to deliver packages to customers.

And while experts believe some of those applications could be a long way off, they are enthused about the possibilities.

In terms of photography and videography, Mr. Cockerill says drones will open up a whole new angle, allowing snappers to get images in the zero- to 400-foot range – something that has not previously been possible.