As a fun experiment, we decided to ask our insurance company if our homeowners insurance covered.
This was our initial email:
I just bought a $1200 drone for non-commercial use. Do I have liability insurance should my drone come down and injure someone (or damage property)?
We received a few “I have to check with so-and-so responses” and got this response:
[Name] had asked me to follow up with you on your coverage question regarding the drone you had just purchased. You are our first (that we know about) and had to go directly to the company for an answer….your homeowner’s policy will provide liability coverage, should it crash or cause bodily injury or property damage.
A few days later we received this follow up:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. I heard back from my underwriter regarding the drone. And yes there is coverage under the homeowners policy as the drone is not considered to be an airplane. Please keep in mind the homeowners policy will only cover the drone for your personal use. No business use is covered under the homeowners policy.
We were happy with the answer but still skeptical so we spoke to Rick Roman of Gulf Coast Underwriters, who works specifically in ensuring drones, to find out more.
Roman pretty much corroborated the answer we got from our insurance company.
“If your insurance company says you’re covered you should be ok, just as long as no money is changing hands. If they can rove someone is paying you to operate your UAV they will say ‘this is a business’ and then you are stuck.”
The solution then, is to buy insurance.
The commercial use of drones is not illegal but it is restricted unless you get a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA. Sort of like how you’re not supposed to smoke marijuana in California unless you have medical dispensation: you could go and submit your plea to the gate keeper, but its cheaper, faster and you aren’t likely to get into any trouble if you just go ahead and do it.
How much does drone insurance cost? We asked Mr. Roman and this is what he said:
“It really depends. There are a lot of factors that go into determining cost: Who is flying the UAV? What kind of training does he have? Does the manufacturer you are buying from provide training? Where are you flying? What’s the business you are for?…Someone who wants to fly in rural areas will pay less than a guy in an urban environment. And then you have to decide if you want to insure the UAV hardware itself, which most people don’t.”
As far as numbers go, under ideal conditions in a rural environment liability insurance will cost “a couple grand a year.” Flying in an urban environment “might be another grand.”
In conclusion, it comes down to intent: business or pleasure? If you want to fly a drone just for the novelty, but are concerned about insurance, we recommend you simply ask. Chances are, you are covered should anything awful happen. Less so if you plan on using the drone for business.