Insurance. Even the word sounds dull doesn’t it? But insurance could be the most important thing in your life should your unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hit someone or damage the property of others as a result of your negligence. Whack me in the head with your UAV and I’m going to sue!
The type of insurance needed is called Liability. It's much like the liability insurance for operating your car. It affords defense at the expense of the insurance company and if you lose they will also pay up to the limit selected for bodily injury and property damage to others. It is not life or health insurance. No coverage is afforded for your death or injuries. Liability insurance helps protect your assets by spending the insurance company's money for your negligent acts instead of your own. And if you're in business liability insurance can help obtain clients.
But how can commercial operators be eligible for insurance when commercial uses are not yet approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)? That's a question I'm frequently asked. While I can't speak for all the insurance policies available, I can say the contracts of the aviation insurance company I represent have no FAR (Federal Aviation Regulation) exclusions. Like most aviation insurance companies, they discarded FAR exclusions from their policies decades ago. Just as auto insurers have no exclusions in their policies for violating traffic laws, true aviation insurance companies have no exclusions for violating FAR regulations. Consequently, most aviation insurers willing to offer policies for commercial UAV operators may do so without concern for the FAA.
How can one obtain liability insurance for the negligent operation of a UAV? Such insurance is difficult to acquire as UAV operations by the general aviation community is relatively new and the group is too small for most aviation insurance carriers to take an interest. Currently, the few insurers that are willing to consider coverage for UAV operations are dividing users into two groups---the pleasure user or the commercial user.
The pleasure user of UAVs can most easily find liability insurance by joining the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Included with membership is liability insurance but commercial use is excluded.
Experienced UAV operators with the entrepreneurial spirit are finding all sorts of business uses for their aircraft. Just a few examples are---
- Real estate video
- Film production
- Forest fire spotting and monitoring
- Power line and pipeline patrol
- Agricultural observation
- Wildlife monitoring
- Search and Rescue
- Security surveillance
Commercial operators have found it difficult to find liability insurance. It's understandable. This group is even smaller than that of pleasure operators and represents a more significant risk due to holding themselves out as professionals.
Though the difficulty in finding commercial liability has not been alleviated, it has been lessened somewhat. Costello Insurance, an aviation insurance agency, has aligned with an aviation insurance company who is showing a willingness to offer liability insurance to those operating their UAVs commercially. They, like Costello Insurance, see a future in commercial use UAVs and wish to be in on the ground floor.
Insurance, though dull, can protect your assets and give you peace of mind. It may be difficult to find but it's worth the effort.
Pat Costello is a pilot with over 30 years experience in aviation insurance. He is the president of Costello Insurance Associates. Costello Insurance has access to aviation insurance policies for the commercial user of UAVs. Contact Costello Insurance at 800-528-6483 or via the web at www.aviationi.com