When I kickstarted this blog back to life a few months ago I promised regular content updates, a podcast and vlog. Those last two are coming – I promise. As part of that first one I am going to also be writing about my drone work with the company I own, Aerial Resources Group, LLC. This week and next week I’ll be down in Guyana working with local resource developers to train two dozen Guyanese drone pilots to operate a fleet of DJI drones in use at a local mine. Things did not get off to a good start…
The last time, and every time prior, that I came to Guyana I brought drones with me. Drones for demonstrations, training, and delivery. Each of those times I breezed through customs with little more than a cursory inspection and nod as the whole “drone thing” was fairly new in the country. In fact the last time I was in Guyana I spent a considerable amount of time with the GCAA (Guyanese Civil Aviation Authority) drafting and revising a set of policies that would eventually become the laws of the country concerning drones, their use, and safety. You could say I’m helping build nations over here.
Well, at some point between THEN and NOW someone along the chain got their hands on the laws I had written and put in their own special one concerning entry to the country. As in – nobody can bring a drone into Guyana without a permit from the GCAA which puts Guyana in the back of the pack when it comes to countries “friendly to drones”. Other countries like the United States, Canada, Mexico – even in the Middle East, do not have similar restrictions. Drones are a part of our world now and by having such a strict policy Guyana is discouraging tourism by people that are smart enough to look up drone regulations before they book trips. It’s unfortunate, as Guyana has some beautiful culture, and the awe inspiring Kaieteur Falls that would be amazing if captured by a drone. I’ll be reaching out to my contacts in the GCAA in the hope that they will fix this huge mistake their regulators have made.
So why the monologue on drone laws in Guyana? Because when I landed in Georgetown this time both the Inspire drones that I was traveling with were seized by customs on entry. I was given a receipt and told that I would need to spend the next few weeks working with the GCAA to get a permit issued for their release. Not exactly convenient since I was only going to be here for a few weeks. Fortunately the mine has other drones that I could use for the classes I was going to lead, but all the same – I did not like having two drones locked up.
My original plan was to fly directly to the mine site, however following this mishap at customs I offered to stay in Georgetown and work directly with the GCAA and customs in hope of accelerating the process of getting the drones released. What was originally quoted as a lengthy process, and weeks to get issued – I was able to shorten to about 8 hours of office work and blowing up the phones of every Government employee in Guyana I knew. By the end of the day I had a permit issued and clearance to go pick up my drones from the airport customs office…..which was of course now closed. So we had to wait until the next day.
I had the good fortune of having worked with the GCAA and drone flying clubs here in Guyana over the past two years to develop these relationships. We were able to move through a bureaucratic process in what I imagine is record setting time however, an unsuspecting tourists traveling to Guyana with a drone, be warned – you’ll probably never see it again if the process takes as long as I was quoted.
My advice right now, for drone pilots and tourists who might be considering Guyana as a destination – do not come here. Their laws right now reflect an early stage of integration, and lack of understanding. They are not a drone friendly country, and it kills me to have to say that – because Guyana is a great place.