The Sky is Buzzing: BVI Ushering in Drone Photography Laws?

There is no doubt that BVI airspace will continue to be flooded with the high-pitched buzz of quads, in and around public beaches. That is, until legislation is passed which will restrict tourists from selling images taken in the BVI to both local and foreign companies from abroad. Unfortunately for local photographers, the problem is too difficult to police without the government enforcing strict laws requiring pilot’s licenses to those who enter the territory with such devices. Eventually, if the trend continues to follow the UK and USA model of restricting commercial drone photography, even those who are already commercially licensed for photography will at some point be required to have a pilots license in order to legally operate drones.
Aerial photography can be a brilliant marketing method.  Anything looks more beautiful from the air than the ground, especially real estate, and a couple of photos from the sky can give a potential buyer a perspective that they would never have otherwise.  However, there are a few things to watch out for when it comes to aerial photography.   Can anybody do it?  Unfortunately, not everyone can provide aerial photography services. The best option in the BVI, would be to find an actual company that can provide these services. Some private pilots might tell you they can take you up for a couple of hours, and they’ll probably charge less than legitimate companies.  With the recent influx of drones in the territory, it is a common assumption that anyone with $1500 can buy their own quad-rotor and use/sell the images commercially. However, unless you posses a BVI trade license as a photographer or related business, you’re not legally allowed to make money from your images.  In the end, if you want to buy a drone for your own personal photo use, it’s okay. On the flip side, if you want to sell the images or use them commercially it’s much more practical and legal, to hire a company or get a trade license.   The Law Basic photography law is not particularly complicated, but it’s still important that it’s closely followed.  If you physically take the photos, then you own the rights but that does not necessarily mean you can do whatever you want with them, at least in the BVI.  If you hold a BVI Trade-license for photography, it’s unlikely that you’ll have any problems publishing them wherever you need to.  If you work for a local company, you should check the paperwork or ask your HR department, but the pictures you take on company time most likely revert to the company.  This also makes the outcome relatively simple.  If another company or person takes the photos for you, it is important to pay attention to exactly what rights you are purchasing.  If you buy the full rights, you own the photo and can do whatever you want with it, as if it were yours.  A company may try to sell you partial rights.  This option is likely to be less expensive, and may serve your purposes, but will have restrictions on things such as where and how many you can publish.  Make sure you know what you’re paying for.   Conclusion Aerial photography can be a wonderful way to market any of a number of services and products, and it works especially well for real estate. There are currently rumours of signs  in BVI ports of entry that try to warn visitors about photography laws but from recent day trips to Cane Garden and White Bay, it doesn’t seem like it is stopping anyone from flying. The fact is, they offer a high production value feel at a relatively low cost. The more drone vids that are taken in the BVI, means more eyeballs on the BVI, which is good for all local businesses, even photographers. As long as pilots can be responsible and are held accountable in the event of personal or property damage (which they will be), I say, let the skies buzz on.   The more beautiful aerial photos we have of the BVI, the better. Instead of discouraging photography at the ports of entry we should instead, encourage flying responsibly.   Maybe the signs should read something like, “Don’t Drink & Drone!”
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