Drones are remotely piloted aircraft systems, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that over a million drones will be sold during the holiday season. They are used by many people, including photographers, farmers, law enforcement, and hobbyists.
The FAA says that pilots of drones have the same responsibility to operate them safely as pilots of manned aircraft. The FAA has issued some regulations related to drones. States and municipalities may also have laws in effect.
Some drones weigh up to 55 pounds, so they can cause serious damage if they hit a person or object. The FAA has issued some general safety guidelines:
• Don’t fly a drone higher than 400 feet. Avoid surrounding buildings, people, and objects.
• Always keep your drone in sight.
• Avoid flying near manned aircraft.
• Don’t fly within five miles of an airport unless you have contacted the airport and control tower.
• Don’t fly a drone that weighs more than 55 pounds.
Drones can crash and cause significant damage or injuries. It is important to have insurance if you plan to fly a drone.
Flying a private drone as a hobby is generally covered under a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Check your policy to find out if you will be covered if your drone is lost, stolen, or damaged. If your drone falls on your car, your auto insurance policy will cover the cost of the damage if you have comprehensive coverage.
Drones are often equipped with cameras, which raises privacy concerns. Drones can be used for intentional surveillance or can inadvertently capture data that could be harmful or embarrassing. Be mindful of other people’s privacy when flying your drone. Insurers are developing policies to cover privacy-related liability issues. Also, keep in mind that all insurance policies exclude intentional and illegal acts.
The commercial use of drones is largely restricted. Operations may be authorized on a case-by-case basis. The FAA has proposed rules such as requiring pilots to obtain special pilot certificates, avoiding bystanders, limits on when and where drones can be flown, and prohibitions on the use of drones to deliver packages. Final rules have not been implemented, so they are not being enforced.
Federal regulators recently announced that recreational operators will soon be required to register their drones. This will help authorities trace a drone to its owner in the event of an accident or privacy complaint.