Panama Drone Legislation
*First published by L2B – World Drone Legislation 2019.
Author: Maria de Lourdes Marengo
1. Are UAS considered as “aircraft” in your country?
An RPAS is considered as an aircraft in Panama. The Aeronautical Standard No. AAC/DSA/DG/01-16, which regulates all the aspects and the registration of RPAS in Panama, defines aircraft as a machine that can be sustained in the atmosphere from reactions of the air, and not by the reactions of the same against the earth’s surface.
2. Which bodies regulate the remotely-piloted and/or unmanned aircraft operations in your country, under what basic laws?
The Civil Aviation Authority of Panama (“AAC”) regulates the operations of the RPAS in Panama, under the Aeronautical Standard No. AAC/DSA/DG/01-16 (the “Regulations”).
3. Is there a distinction between “State UAS” and “Private UAS”?
Yes, there is a distinction in the Regulations. The State RPAs are used for state or governmental operations, and the Private RPAs are used for civil or private operations.
4. Is there any distinction between public, leisure and commercial UAS? What regulations are provided for UAS operations in each group?
Yes, there is a distinction between the recreational or leisure RPAS and the commercial ones. The main difference is that all the RPAS operators and members of their crew, who desire to carry out commercial operations in Panama, shall have an Operation Certificate issued by the AAC according to the local aeronautical regulations. This certificate will allow the operator to carry out commercial operations of such RPAS, in accordance with the conditions and limitations established within.
5. Is there a distinction, in terms of regulation, between completely autonomous UAS and remotely-piloted UAS?
Yes, the distinction is made in the definitions’ section of the Regulations. In fact, the regulations mention in Section E, that the same applies to i) all the remote piloted aircraft systems (“RPAS”); (ii) all the RPAS of any weight, that were specifically designed for performing aerial work or cargo transportation; and (iii) all the RPAS’s operators and members of their crew, who desire to carry out commercial operations in Panama.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (“UAS”) Operations - Safety
6. How are UAS operations regulated in terms of safety?
The safety of the RPAS operations in Panama will have the same importance as a manned piloted aircraft. To that end, any investigation of a drone accident or incident must be carried out by the AAC, their units, and other applicable departments.
7. Is the applicable regulation considering the rule of 1 UAS = 1 pilot?
The Regulation considers the RPAS’ pilot as responsible for the safe operation of the RPAS during his flight so we may consider the rule 1 RPA = 1 pilot as the applicable one.
Regulation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems ("UAS") Operations - Licensing
8. What procedures are there to obtain licenses or the rights to operate UAS?
All the RPAs which operate within the Panamanian territory, except the micro RPA, shall be registered at the AAC and need to obtain a registration number.
In sum, the registration process and requirements are as mentioned below:
The operator or owner of an RPA must fill out a form that can be found at the AAC’s website, and provide documentation accrediting that the RPA is their property;
In the mentioned form the operator or owner of the RPA must identify the same indicating the brand, model, weight, color, and serial number;
The RPA must have a nationality and registration number, and if that is not the case, the owner must request the same to the AAC. Once the registration number is assigned, and the RPA is enrolled in the Panamanian registry, the owner must place the nationality marks and registration number in a visible place;
All the RPA’s owners must request the registration number, except the micro RPAs, which are used for sports and recreation purposes;
All the owners of an RPA must have and should provide to the AAC a third-party damage insurance since the owner is the sole entity responsible for any damage caused by the drone;
The operator or owner of the RPA must demonstrate to the AAC that the RPA does not exceed the noise emission levels provided in the local regulations.
It is very important to mention that while all RPA’s operators must have a valid Operation Certificate issued by the AAC, every person who desires to pilot any type of RPA, with the exception of the micro RPA, must obtain an RPA pilot license issued by the AAC and be trained in any matter related with the use of an RPA.
One of the requirements to obtain an RPA pilot license under local regulations is that the applicant has a valid aircraft pilot license or has been in possession of one in the past. The AAC is constantly monitoring all the drone’s operators and pilots to ensure that the quality and compliance with the requirements prescribed in the local regulations are maintained.
9. Are there any kind of taxes or fees regarding the licensing procedure?
The registration of the RPAS cost US$5.00 dollars, except for the micro RPA which is free.
10. Is a Certificate of Airworthiness mandatory to operate a UAS?
Except for the micro RPA, all the other types of RPAS require a certificate of airworthiness to operate in Panama.
11. Is access to the market for the provision of UAS operation services regulated and, if so, how?
Yes, all the RPAS’s operators who desire to carry out commercial operations in Panama must obtain an Operation Certificate issued by the AAC.
12. What requirements apply in the areas of financial strength and nationality of ownership regarding control of UAS?
There are no restrictions regarding nationality or ownership for the operation of a RPAS in Panama.