The FAA has finally indicated it will be opening up the sky to commercial drones but, before you go out and start an aerial business, you may want to consider drone insurance. To be clear, you really only need drone insurance if you intend to use your drone for commercial purposes. If you are planning on flying around your house or local park just for fun, your homeowners insurance will probably cover you. It’s best to check and make sure, like we did, but you should be safe.
At least, for now.
“Homeowner’s insurance has always covered radio controlled aircraft and so far, drones are falling under this classification,” Skyward CEO Jonathan Evans told Dronelife. “But underwriters are beginning to rethink this policy.”
“In this era of aerial robotics -so many of them are flying in urban environments- the underwriters’ thinking is evolving. It’s becoming an open question,” Evans said.
At the moment, insurance companies equate your drone crashing into someone to your dog biting a stranger. But due to the rising popularity of drones, insurance companies may be changing their policies rather quickly.
“Look for underwriters to get much more specific. They will come up with caveats and standards, like always having the latest firmware… they will require you to not be a negligent drone owner.”
So, if you are considering getting a drone in the future, make sure you understand responsible drone ownership.
(Incidentally, why not start practicing now? Head over to Dronelife’s product configurator and let us help you find you first drone!)
If, on the other hand, you are planning on using your drone as part of your business, you are going to want to look into aviation liability insurance.
Terry Miller is the President of Unmanned Risk Management, the largest underwriter of aviation insurance in the world. He told Dronelife his company has insured drones in all 50 U.S. states and in countries all over the world. Most notably,Unmanned Risk Management has insured the seven film operators that received a Section 333 exemption from the FAA to use drone on Hollywood movie sets.
“UAV insurance is a natural extension of manned aircraft insurance that goes back decades,” Miller said. “By and large, we have the same policy for drones as we do helicopters that, for example, do power line inspection. It’s just tweaked a little for drones.”
The drones Unmanned Risk Management insures have an average value of $50,000-$70,000, though Miller says he has insured plenty of smaller drones like DJI’s S100 and Phantom drones.
A commercial insurance policy for a Phantom covering liability up to $1 million and hull damage up to $1,500 can run as little as $1,350 a year (with a 10-15% deductible).
All of those number can change of course, based on who you are and why you are flying. But Miller says the most important stipulation for getting good drone insurance is that you can demonstrate your willingness to fly responsibly.
“We want to see people who want to train or have been trained… people who want to become better fliers,” Miller said. “We want them to have operating manuals, maintenance logs -incidentally, we see a drop in the rate of lost drones for people who have these in place- and a record of any parts or add-ons they may have bought online. In other words, we require them to jump through some hoops.”
At the end of the day, it’s up to the underwriters discretion whether or not to sell insurance to a pilot. So, if you are considering flying a drone for your business, be prepared to demonstrate intimate knowledge of your system and the environment in which you will be flying.
The only use case Miller said would be turn off for Unmanned Risk Management is indoor flights.
“We do not insure commercial drones for indoor use… At a concert or trade show or something,” he said.
Though later he backtracked a bit, saying “Well maybe with a record of training to fly indoors, maybe that would be ok… It’s really all about training for us. We think if we require pilots to be diligent and responsible, eventually everyone will catch on.”