The Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands has issued a warning about the use of drones near the airport after a disabled drone was found last week beside the runway of the Owen Roberts International Airport.
According to a statement from the CAACI, there has been an increasing number of sightings of drones reported in the vicinity of the airport. On Thursday, the disabled drone was found inside the perimeter of the airport “very near to the runway”.
The authority said the drone’s operation “in such close proximity to arriving and departing aircraft is both illegal and extremely irresponsible”.
Anyone convicted of flying a drone illegally near an airport in the Cayman Islands faces a maximum of a two-year prison sentence, a $5,000 fine, or both.
The CAACI is reminding the public, in the interests of aviation safety, that it is prohibited to fly any form of unmanned aircraft within three nautical miles of Owen Roberts, Charles Kirkconnell International Airport on Cayman Brac and the Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman.
“This prohibition is in place to protect arriving and departing aircraft during the critical stages of their flight when a collision with, or the ingestion of, a foreign object has the potential for very serious consequences,” the CAACI said.
According to Article 176 of the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2013, “A person must not recklessly or negligently act in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in the aircraft.”
The use of drones is also prohibited within one mile of Northward Prison.
Alastair Robertson, CAACI’s director of Air Navigation Services, told the Cayman Compass in an email that, so far, it had not been necessary to divert or delay any aircraft locally due to drone activity.
He said that, while there had been several reported sightings of drones near the airport in recent weeks, “it is not possible to confirm the actual number as all but one are anecdotal rather than supported by ‘hard’ evidence”.
He added, “However, the one confirmed by CIAA personnel, together with the drone found on the airfield and a previous incident where footage of a drone operating on the airfield at ORIA was posted on social media, is more than sufficient evidence to suggest that a risk exists.”
Drones have caused problems for other airports internationally. For example, sightings of drones near London’s Gatwick Airport in London closed that airport for two days in 2018, when up to 1,000 flights were cancelled.
Robertson said that where there is sufficient information available, the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service are notified about illegal drone activity and “have taken action on previous occasions”.
Cayman currently has no drone registration programme in place, he said, but added that consideration is being given to establishing one here.
Meanwhile, the CAACI is urging members of the public who see any drone activity near Cayman’s airports to report it to the Airport Operation Command Centre on 244-5835.