As commercial drones and quadcopters provide a competitive advantage to environmental consultants for applications such as site assessments, it is important keep an eye on regulatory developments and insurance requirements. UAS’s (unmanned aircraft systems) can be an efficient way to collect data and samples and perform geospatial analysis in real time, thanks to the development of sensors and detectors. If you are investing in this kind of equipment for your business, it is important to stay current on FAA regulations on using UAS’s for commercial purposes. It is also important to secure liability and hull insurance for your UAS as these systems are generally excluded from property and general liability policies.
In a commercial property form, your business personal property is not covered when your property is airborne or waterborne. If you operate your UAV and there is an accident while it is flying, damage to it will not be covered, unless you specifically endorse it to your property or inland marine policy. In addition, commercial general liability policies usually exclude aircraft. There are endorsements that can be purchased to such a policy that will afford coverage for property damage, bodily injury or personal injury that your UAS causes accidentally to third parties. These endorsements are generally narrow and apply only to designated UAS’s that are scheduled to the policy and are used for specific operations and projects by the insured only. These endorsements do not cover liability that arises through someone else using your UAS.
For a consulting firm that purchases several UAS’s and plans to have employees operate them, it is possible to buy a commercial drone policy, usually available from an insurance company that specializes in aerospace risks. These policies generally cover the insured and its employees for multiple UAS’s on different projects throughout the United States. These policies provide coverage for liability as well as physical damage to the insured’s UAS’s, or “hull” coverage. For smaller operators, yet another option is on-the-spot coverage offered by Verifly Insurance Services via a downloadable app. Verifly, in partnership with Global Aerospace, offers affordable liability coverage on an hourly, as opposed to annual, basis.
No matter the size of your business and how many drones you operate, it is important to speak with your broker to determine how much risk you are willing assume and how much you want to transfer via insurance. As drones become popular both recreationally and commercially, insurance products are evolving. Your broker can help you determine which product best suits your operations.