Does Your Insurance Cover Drone Damage or Damaged Drones?
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UPDATED: Apr 5, 2017
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Drones have quickly moved from the realm of science fiction and military hardware to become consumer toys and tools.
But what happens when your drone causes property damage or an injury? And what if you’re the victim of a drone accident?
There have already been a number of drone-related incidents.
TechRepublic reported on 12 “disasters” that show the risks of drones, especially when operated by inexperienced users. For example,
- In January of 2015, a drone crash-landed on the White House lawn.
- A drone bearing mistletoe (to encourage people to kiss underneath it) crashed into the face of a Brooklyn Daily photographer, cutting off the end of her nose.
- In July of 2014, a drone nearly crashed into an Airbus A320 taking off from London’s Heathrow airport.
Boston Magazine reported on a drone accident that occurred at an outdoor wedding in New Hampshire. The drone “slammed into the faces” of the guests, giving two women concussions. The victims are suing the groom and the company that operates the wedding venue.
In August, 2016, The Independent reported on what might have been the first drone-related civilian death, although the death seems to have been (at most) indirectly related to the drone. A woman died in a car crash after her vehicle was followed by police investigating reports that a drone was being flown near a prison in the area.
As the New York Times reported, those in the insurance industry expect to see more drone-related claims as consumer drone use increases.
The Consumer Technology Association estimated that 1.2 million drones were sold during the 2016 holiday season.
According to the insurance industry spokesman quotes by the Times, if you’re using a drone for personal purposes and it causes property damage or a personal injury, you’d likely be covered by your regular homeowner’s insurance policy.
If you’re using the drone to make money — for example, if you’re being paid as a photographer, even though that’s not your regular business — you normally wouldn’t be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. (But you may be able to get business insurance that would cover drone use.)
Also, some insurers are now excluding drones from their regular policies, and drone coverage may cost extra.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics provides group liability coverage as a benefit for members who pay the $75 annual fee. (Membership is free for those under age 19.) The policy covers claims that are not covered by the member’s homeowner’s insurance, up to $2.5 million.
If a drone is lost or damaged, it will usually be covered by homeowner’s insurance. However, the deductible may be higher than the value of the drone.
As the Times notes, drone owners can reduce their risk by following drone safety rules.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules require drones to be flown at or below 400 feet. Operators must also keep drones in sight at all times.
The FAA’s website includes a drone safety video.
Drones must be registered with the FAA if they are flown outdoors. This costs only $5 per person (not per drone) for a three-year period.