If you’re in New York, don’t be too surprised if you see a drone in the skies above you. Once associated with the military, drones have become increasingly popular in commercial and personal uses. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expects sales of hobby and commercial drones in the United States to reach 7 million by 2020. But just as the applications of drones are growing, so too are the legal and insurance concerns.
Commercial Uses of Drones
Although the average person probably thinks of delivery services – such as Amazon’s Prime Air – when imagining commercial uses of drones, businesses have many other uses for the unmanned aerial vehicles.
In construction especially, drones have proven very effective. They’re perfect for surveying the site before construction begins. During construction, they continue to be useful in monitoring the project, producing valuable data that can help to reduce waste and improve safety. Because drones produce quality video, they are very useful for managers and investors who want to keep tabs on development without spending a lot of – or any – time on site.
In real estate, the aerial pictures produced by drones do a great job of showing off a property and are ideal for marketing purposes.
Personal Uses of Drones
Many people enjoy operating drones for recreational purposes. Drone hobbyists fly their unmanned aerial vehicles for fun. Some join clubs and organizations dedicated to the hobby, including the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Personal drones are actually more common than commercial drones. Of the 7 million drones that the FAA predicts to be sold by 2020, 4.3 million are expected to be hobbyist purchases. In 2016, there were already 1.9 million recreational drones sold.
Legal and Insurance Issues
The FAA has strict rules pertaining to the commercial and recreational use of drones. When using a drone for commercial purposes, a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate is requirement, the drone can only be operated in Class G airspace and the operator should keep the drone in visual line-of-sight, among other rules.
The rules for hobbyists are somewhat more relaxed. However, drone operators must also abide by local laws. In New York City, for example, hobbyists may not be able to operate their drones outside of several parks that have been set aside for them.
Although some regulations might seem onerous, the truth is that drones present numerous dangers. The FAA has issued warning about drones causing hazards for pilots. Drones that crash can cause property damage or even injure people. There have also been conflicts regarding privacy issues when drones fly over people’s homes – including one case involving a Kentucky man who shot down an offending drone.
Drones are also expensive devices that can themselves be damaged. As a result, insurance coverage for drones is essential.
Because drones are considered part of aviation, businesses should not assume they will be covered under commercial general liability policies. Aviation policies designed for drones are available.
Hobbyists may be able to rely on their homeowners and renters insurance for some potential issues related to drones. However, policies vary, and it’s likely that certain events would not be covered. Once again, policies designed specifically for drones are available. The bottom line: If drones are in your future, either for personal or commercial use, talk to your BNC Insurance agent to ensure that you and your drone are protected.