Barbados Panics About Drones, Enacts a Ban That Likely Won't Achieve Anything

The Commonwealth island tries to control growing UAV use.


Barbados isn’t exactly known as a trend-setter in the tech world, but it’s taken a dramatic approach to what officials see as a growing problem: There are too many drones entering the country, so the island nation is slamming the door shut. As of April 1, the country will implement a 12-month ban on the import of drones.

Over the last two years, drones in Barbados have become increasingly popular — as they have everywhere else. Officials now have no idea how many drones are in the country, or a even clear notion of what they might do with that information if they had it.

There’s no clear-cut answer to the question of how best to regulate drone use. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration has taken an evolving tack. Most recently, it required that non-commerical pilots register any drones under 55 pounds through an online system. By March, some 400,000 civilian pilots had registered. Whether the act of registration will prevent accidents and reinforce a sense of accountability in the drone community remains to be seen.

Outright bans, however, never seem completely effective. Drones are simply too inconspicuous to launch — and too easy to use remotely. Though national parks in the United States have banned drones, pilots continue to fly unmanned aerial vehicles illegally through the airspace.

India, likewise, banned drones in 2014 as a temporary measure. It still has not lifted the ban, but enforcing the prohibition is spotty at best.

As Stanford University’s Vivek Wadhwa writes in the Washington Post following the ban in Inia, an outright kibosh on drones isn’t the way to procede. Rather, we must recognize that “drones will be common in our skies and that they will play an integral role in our economy and society.”

It’s not going to be easy to figure out how best to integrate drones — especially while collision avoidance remains in its infancy — but sealing the doorway doesn’t seem like a viable long-term solution.