Your Guide to Drone Insurance from #MorseOfCourse
Christmas is almost here! You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about gifting drones — in fact, nearly one million consumer drones were sold in the U.S. last holiday season. Despite safety concerns, these numbers are steadily rising. By next year’s holiday season, your online shopping on Amazon might even be accompanied by drone delivery in 30 minutes or less.
If a drone is your wish list, or if you’re gifting flight to a friend or loved one, there are a few vital things you should consider about your privacy and safety. The FAA updated drone regulations this year, and you may be unaware of some of the newer safety requirements related to these small, unmanned aircrafts. But don’t worry, we’ve compiled some of the most important things you should know, along with some resources to help you get educated before you become a drone owner or operator.
What is a drone?
Let’s start with a quick explanation of what exactly a drone is. Drones are ‘small unmanned aircraft systems’ that can operate without a human pilot onboard. They are controlled by an operator on the ground and can be programmed to fly to different locations. According to the FAA, these devices must be under 55 lbs.
Registering Your Drone
The FAA does considers consumer drones the same as commercial drones — aka, they consider your drone an official aircraft — which means you have to be registered with the FAA to obtain an operator’s license if the drone weighs more than .55 pounds. Luckily, the registration costs for a drone are currently only $5 and will remain valid for three years. Make sure to keep your certificate as proof of your registration, and to have it on you whenever you are flying your drone. You will also get an FAA registration number, which should be visibly marked on your drone itself. For more information, visit the FAA website. Here’s a quick guide to get you started and a full summary of new Small Unmanned Aircraft Rules.
One more thing: flying an official aircraft in the U.S. airspace makes you an official pilot, with the same responsibility to operate it safely.
Drone Operator Requirements
While there are no pilot permitting requirements for recreational drone use, a drone pilot must always be within sight of the drone; specifically, FAA rules state that you must be able to see your drone at all times without the aide of any devices other than corrective lenses. Keep in mind that drones can also only be flown in daylight.
Drone Operating Rules
Per FAA regulations, you must be at least 17 years old to operate a drone.. Drone pilots are only allowed to operate one drone at a time. Your drone must remain below 400 feet above ground level and can not exceed 100 mph in speed.
Drone Flying Restrictions
The FAA regulations also restrict where you can fly a drone: You may not fly your drone over people, unless they are participating in the operation, and you can not go under any covered structure or inside a covered, stationary vehicle. You may not fly your drone within 5 miles of an airport and should always avoid restricted airspace. Download the FAA app B4UFLY to help figure out if you are operating near a restricted zone.
For Massachusetts-specific drone laws and regulations, head here. For the FAA’s safety checklist for safe flying drones, head here.
So why do you need drone insurance? Well, consider all of the things that could go wrong. A .55 – 55 pound machine made of metal may not cause much damage from 10 feet up, but imagine if it fell from 400 feet onto someone’s head, or someone else’s car. That’s significant damage that you are now responsible for paying for. If you need proof, just look at this GoPro incident from last month that made major headlines after a drone video ended with it crashing hard onto a beach on which people were walking.
Then there’s the new trend of hackers going after smart devices. Drones are also part of the Internet of Things — they’re connected to the cloud just like your smart thermostat or lights, meaning they’re very easily hackable, with your location data and personal data on the line.
When it comes to insuring your drones, things can get a little tricky. If you have a homeowners, general liability, or even an umbrella insurance policy, know that these policies include an aircraft exclusion. So what does that mean? Basically, your drone can be considered an aircraft (since it flies), which means that any accidents involving your drone may not be covered by your insurance. Keep in mind, consumer drones are still relatively new, so expect regulations and insurance requirements to be in flux.
Luckily, #MorseOfCourse always keeps up with the newest innovations in the insurance industry. If you have a drone and are looking to explore your insurance options, give us a call today at 508-238-0056 to discuss the exposures that exist and what you can do to protect yourself, your loved ones, and of course, your drone.