Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a drone!

16 February 2022 - Elizabeth Nichols

The popularity of unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones) has been rising, both for private and commercial operators. Events such as weddings are now often filmed using overhead camera drones, and they are regularly used by farmers to track livestock and monitor crops. However, drones are expensive to purchase and costly to repair if damaged, so it is worth thinking carefully about your insurance options if you are using a drone for your own enjoyment or for business use.

Key points to bear in mind if using a drone for recreational use

  • Drones weighing under 250 grams are classed as a toy. Any drones above that weight need to be registered and the user needs to pass a competency test
  • Small (under 25 kg) unmanned drones used for recreational flights are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  • If your drone has a camera you must have permission from the CAA to fly it within 150 metres of a built-up area, or above a crowd of more than 1000 people
  • You must always keep your drone within your line of sight. Using a camera viewfinder is no an acceptable alternative
  • The maximum altitude a drone can fly is 120 metres (unless the drone is required to overfly an obstacle taller than 105 metres in which case permission is needed from the owner of the obstacle, and the drone needs to be 15 metres above and 50 metres horizontally from the obstacle)
  • Never operate a drone near ‘no fly’ areas such as prisons, airports and airfields, government buildings, restricted areas, or at night. Anyone found flying a drone dangerously or recklessly faces a prison sentence of up to 5 years and an unlimited fine

Do I need drone insurance?

Whether or not your insurance company covers your drone depends on how you use it. Many homeowners insurance policies classify small drones as model or hobby aircraft, so if you use the drone recreationally for at least 90% of the time, your policy may classify the drone as your personal property for damage to the drone, theft or loss, but you should check the terms of your policy to be sure of this.

It is also worth noting that many insurers exclude damage caused by drones from their home insurance policies, so you may wish to think about personal liability insurance (which is mandatory for the commercial drone use) so that if your drone crashes into someone’s property, or into a crowd, you would be covered for damages and legal costs.

Where do I get drone insurance?

Drone insurance is provided by specialist insurers who are experienced in the risk management of unmanned vehicles. Your Scrutton Bland broker can advise you of the appropriate policy for you, and the options available. Many of the policies are expensive, as they are aimed at the professional drone operator, so it is worth taking advice, if for example you only need pay-as-you-fly cover, rather than an annual policy. All commercial pilots must have liability insurance for their drones and will need EC785/2004 insurance, regardless of whether or not they have a drone licence.

Whilst the technology and applications for drone use are developing, the associated risks are also growing. Knowing which insurance cover is appropriate for your drone and the way that you use it can save time and money.

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