When it comes to potential liability involving the use of unmanned aircraft systems and drones, the sky is the limit. In October 2017, the fears of many civil aviation engineers were confirmed when a drone crashed into a commercial passenger flight in Canada. The accident occurred as a SkyJet Airlines aircraft was on its final approach and preparing to land at the Jean Lesage International Airport. Fortunately, no one aboard the SkyJet flight was injured, and damage to the fuselage was minimal. However, the situation could have been tragic if the cockpit or turbines had been struck.
Individuals who operate in the civil, recreational, and commercial aviation fields are used to dealing with extensive insurance requirements that drone operators may not be familiar with. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Limited Coverage by Traditional Policies
Let’s say a San Diego woman gets a DJI Phantom 4 drone for her birthday. She decides to test it from her front yard and ends up crashing it against her neighbor’s classic Ford Mustang parked outside. If the woman has comprehensive homeowners insurance in San Diego, there is a small chance the coverage would be adequate to cover cosmetic damage, a broken windshield, and even an injury. However, this may be the extent of coverage, and not all insurers will provide it. If the drone was badly damaged, the woman would have no choice but to repair her birthday gift out of her own pocket.
Insuring the Actual Drone
Photographers and filmmakers are known as professionals who are likely to use drones in their line of business, and companies offering commercial insurance in San Diego may cover them as equipment when they are not airborne. This would fall under marine insurance, which is not limited to maritime shipping but also to transporting cargo in the mainland. As can be imagined, insuring the actual airframe of drones that are in operation may be costlier when they are used for hobby racing, firefighting, or engineering inspection purposes.
Insurance Requirements for Drone Operations
Regulatory oversight of drones is still undergoing debate and implementation. Although there are no hard licensing or insurance requirements to operate these devices at this time, this may change in the future on a jurisdictional basis. This does not mean liability insurance will not be required of drone operators who apply for film permits in Southern California. In fact, if they mention flying cameras will be involved, the amount of minimum liability coverage may be raised by certain film commissions in some jurisdictions.
FAA Section 333
Individuals who operate drones for commercial purposes under an exemption of FAA Section 333, which is a federal rule that grants legal status to drone flights, may be able to add their clients as “additional insured” when conducting business. Some filmmakers are already doing this under specialty drone insurance policies to protect their companies as well as the work they do for clients.
If you would like to learn more about obtaining insurance for drones, reach out to the insurance experts at American Tri-Star. We are a leading provider of auto, commercial, homeowners, and bond insurance in San Diego. Call 619-272-2100 today to speak with one of our knowledgeable agents and receive a free quote.