Did you notice the new craze buzzing around this holiday season? Drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial systems (UASs), were one of the most popular gifts of 2015. A UAS is defined as an unpiloted aircraft that is flown using GPS software and is much like a model airplane or hobby aircraft. Even though most retailers provide safety brochures and informational packets on drones and the responsibility of flying them, new gadgets bring new risks.
To help counter some of the new liability hazards and keep airspace safe for all users, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has recently unveiled a registration process for owners of small UASs. The new registration requirements apply to UASs weighing more than 0.55 pounds and less than 55 pounds, including cargo such as onboard cameras.
The FAA registration includes the following:
- UAS owners using the model aircraft for hobby or recreational purposes should register as a user; all UASs owned by the registrant may use the same identification number. (Registration is valid for three years).
- Registration must be completed by February 19, 2016 for all owners of small UASs who have previously operated an unmanned aircraft exclusively as a model aircraft prior to December 21, 2015.
- A drone weighing more than 0.55 pounds must be registered, even if used for hobby or recreational purposes.
- Owners of UASs purchased for use as a model aircraft after December 21, 2015, must register before the first flight outdoors.
- Registered owners must be at least 13 years of age.
So what can the average homeowner do to protect themselves, their children, and their property from drones? The best answer to that question is to see what coverage is offered in their homeowners policy. A standard homeowners policy would most likely classify a drone as a model or hobby aircraft, so long as it is not being used or designed to carry people and/or cargo, and the owner is not receiving any compensation for its use. Property damage caused to or from drones would probably be covered under the personal property portion of the policy, subject to the policy deductible.
Other hazards to consider are bodily injury and personal injury. There have already been some instances of bodily injury caused by drones. There is also the potential for lawsuits associated with invasion of privacy since cameras can be attached to drones. Not to mention removable cameras could potentially be considered cargo, which would eliminate coverage from the homeowners policy altogether.
If you received a drone this holiday season, consider talking to your local independent agent to see what coverage your homeowners policy provides; it may be prudent to add some extra liability coverage.
The coverages here are described in the most general terms, and are subject to the actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions, and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your agent.