Aerial Photography in the BVI via the use of drones has been the subject of hot debate over the past year. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been trying to reign in the use of drones, but has been met with much opposition. Early this month, the FAA seemed to extend the proverbial olive branch when it granted permission for the first time to a real estate agent wanting to take aerial photos via a drone.
BVI Drone Guidelines
For the moment the British Virgin Islands is a hot bed for professional drone photographers and enthusiasts from all over the world. Currently there is no way for BVI Trade or the Labour Department to decipher who is visiting the BVI for commercial purposes. This has been made clear at local ports of entry which specify that a trade license is required to be a commercial photographer within the British Virgin Islands, but it is still happening. This unfortunately adversely affects local BVI photographers and early local adopters of the inexpensive aerial technology because these camera operators are literally flying in under the radar. Just take a look at the airspace over White Bay, Jost Van Dyke on a Sunday afternoon and ask yourself how many of those drone have a trade license.
Clearer Guidelines to Come
The FAA prohibits the use of drones without a permit, which are only available to persons with a pilot’s license. Historically, permits have only been granted to government and law enforcement agencies, not for commercial use. In fact, last June a drone pilot and photographer took the FAA to court after it tried to fine him $10,000 for flying a drone weighing about two pounds around the University of Virginia campus. The federal judge agreed with the pilot, stating the FAA had not issued an enforceable rule governing model aircraft operation. Interestingly, the judge felt the drone classified as a model aircraft. As a result, Congress has mandated that the FAA come up with enforceable guidelines for commercial drones by September 2015. However, Congress mandated the FAA to come up with guidelines governing model airplane use over a decade ago and it has failed to do so.
Permission with Rules
The Arizona real estate agent given permission to fly his drone cannot do so without restrictions. The FAA requires both the pilot and an observer to be present. The pilot is required to have a FAA private pilot certificate and current medical certificate. Additionally, the drone must remain in the pilot’s sight at all times. Currently, the FAA says it has granted permission for 13 commercial com
o operate drones and it has a total of 214 requests pending. Drone supporters argue it’s not just about the people asking permission. Opening up the drone industry will have a huge economic impact. Some estimate more than 70,000 jobs and $13.6 billion will be added to the economy in just the first three years of production.
So, can you use drones in your BVI marketing efforts? In the BVI, no one has said you can’t. aLookingGlass will be closely monitoring regulatory changes in this unique and extremely valuable marketing sector.