The skies are becoming a bit more crowded as the popularity of drones continues to expand nationwide. Photographers, kids and entrepreneurs alike are becoming drone enthusiasts.
Also rising are the number of accidents and issues of liability if someone or someone else’s property is hurt or damaged by these unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
“There have already been enough incidents and near-misses to date … to generate concern that the likelihood of collisions and other loss events will grow as numbers multiply,” says James Van Meter, an aviation practice leader at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.
It’s easy to pinpoint the reason behind the recent spike in drone popularity — they’ve become smaller and cheaper.
Online searches show basic drones starting at just $20. These UAVs also have become easier to use, especially if you use your smartphone to aid navigation.
So, just how popular are drones in this country?
That’s a lot of flying objects. And a lot of potential dangers that may require some form of insurance.
If you’re wondering if you need insurance, then ask yourself if you are just a hobbyist who only flies drones in the backyard, a photographer who wants to capture soaring vistas, or a business person looking to grow your company.
Insurance is not required for recreational drone use. So you’re probably fine if you limit your flying time to the backyard or empty field across the street. Because many drones fall under the $100 price, many of these UAVs are flown just for fun.
Matthew Henshon, a Boston-based attorney and personal drone enthusiast, draws a valid distinction between recreational drone users like himself and commercial drone users who are bound by FAA regulations that often require insurance.
“Recreational drone users have much more wiggle room and therefore must evaluate their own comfort level with risk when considering insurance,” he says.
Still, you might want to use caution. Your current homeowners or renters insurance policy might not cover the costs of damages if your drone crashes or violates a person’s right to privacy.
Why? Insurers are allowed to exclude drone coverage because these UAVs are considered “small aircraft” by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Even if your insurance covers damage caused by your drone, it won’t be covered in the event of theft or total loss (imagine a crash landing going really bad.)
Enter drone insurance. This specific type of insurance is new to the industry, so expect it to be rapidly changing.
“Whether you run a coffee shop or a truck delivery business you need insurance to run your business. Drones are no different,” Van Meter explains. “Most commercial operators of UAVs will require at least $1 million of insurance coverage to protect against risk exposures.”
But back to hobbyists. You probably won’t need anything close to $1 million in coverage, which is good news because you have plenty of non-traditional options that will fit into almost any budget.
Several organizations created for drone enthusiasts offer insurance coverage. The Academy of Model Aeronautics, for example, provides drone insurance with a valid membership. The coverage usually includes $2.5 million of personal liability, $25,000 in medical coverage, $10,000 in accidental death and up to $1,000 for drones that are stolen or damaged by fire or crash-landings.
If you really want to take your drone insurance into the 21st century then you can purchase an on-demand policy with an app on your phone. The best part about this is you can purchase the policy by the hour, which can provide you coverage only when your drone is in operation.
Regardless of the insurance route you go, start first by investigating what drone activities are already covered by your existing policies. If you don’t need any additional policies, then you’ll instantly be ready for takeoff.