To legally drive a car, you must be able to prove not only that you have a valid license but also that you possess adequate car insurance. Driving without insurance or with inadequate insurance leaves you open to all kinds of liability.
The same could be said for other motor vehicles. If you own a boat, motorcycle or ATV, for example, chances are you have insurance policies for them. They are expensive pieces of equipment, after all.
So where does that leave drones?
How episodic drone insurance works
You can buy insurance for virtually anything, and drones are no exception. Traditional policies, like homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, may cover drones as household items of value. However, most businesses and drone enthusiasts prefer “episodic” insurance policies.
Episodic insurance policies only apply when the drone is in flight. Using a smartphone app, consumers create a customized plan suited to their needs for a specific flight. Costs are calculated by assessing:
- The task to be completed
- The risks involved of completing it
- The specific area the drone will operate in
Many episodic policies are based on an hourly rate, with additional options added on depending on flight needs.
Once you finish your task, and the drone is safely back on the ground, insurance coverage ceases until the next time you fly. You don’t pay for coverage while the drone isn’t in use, and you can modify your coverage each time you fly your drone.
Why use episodic insurance vs. a traditional policy?
The main advantage of episodic insurance is that it’s designed specifically for flying drones. With a traditional policy, you could run into the following issues:
- Your policy limits don’t cover all of the damage done to or by the drone.
- Your policy won’t cover incidents related to “commercial use,” which could mean anything from taking landscape photos to sell on your website to creating a promotional video for your kid’s soccer league, even if you aren’t paid for it.
- Your insurance premiums may go up if you have to make an expensive claim (or claims) due to a drone accident.
Some flying clubs seek to mitigate the costs of drone insurance by purchasing a group plan for their members. This is fine, but the above issues may still apply, especially commercial use restrictions. Group plans are generally for hobby flyers, and may not cover anything related to your side hustle.
Most drone users understand the risks and rewards of flying drones. Episodic drone insurance can be just the solution to protect your investment (and your wallet) from potential liability.
It’s easy to think of drones in the sense of what they can add to modern life. For recreational purposes, they offer a unique aviation experience that just about anyone can enjoy. As a means of utility, drones can gather aerial imagery and data from hard-to-reach vantage points. Even for consumers, the prospect of drones delivering purchased goods is becoming an increasingly tangible reality. But what if drones could also remove the smog and pollution that looms over some of California’s larger cities?
Drones are an exciting technology and they’ve already proven useful on several different fronts. With a rise in these unmanned aerial vehicles being used for public good—e.g. tracking wildfires and other disasters—what are their prospects for helping to clean up California’s environmental ills? A look at what drones are doing here and abroad could offer a glimpse into the future.
Sniffing out the problem
In Katowice, Poland, drones are already being to put to use as a way to detect pollution. A city with a substantial mining industry, Katowice offers an airspace that’s uniquely fit to test and refine this technology. Polish authorities are using drones equipped with sensors that can evaluate the air’s chemical makeup onboard, and in turn fining the offenders who are releasing contaminates.
While Poland is in the midst of its own pollution problem, these “sniffing” drones could feasibly be just as useful in cities like Los Angeles where smog is an egregious issue. The development of this technology will be interesting to watch, as it could play a role in the evolution of both emissions and aviation regulations.
A decrease in greenhouse gas emissions
When companies like Amazon and UPS began exploring the use of drones as delivery systems, there was a feeling that commerce as we know it could change dramatically. While that may end up proving true, drone delivery could also offer environmental benefits, namely a reduction in greenhouse gasses.
A recent study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory concluded that using drones to deliver packages could cut down on carbon emissions. While drones are not completely harmless in terms of energy use, they’re a far cry from diesel delivery trucks, and the study noted that California in particular could see some stark differences:
- On average, a truck delivery of a package leads to roughly 1 kg of greenhouse gas emissions.
- In California, a drone delivery of that same package would create about 0.42 kg of greenhouse gas emissions.
For the Golden State, that would mean a 54 percent reduction in emitted greenhouse gasses. The technology and infrastructure are a work in progress for drone delivery, but there are promising signs that it could be a more environmentally-friendly option.
As the proliferation of drones in the U.S. continues, it will be interesting to see how their range of uses expands. With issues of the environment increasingly at the forefront of public discourse, drones may end up being called upon more and more as a greener option.
Drone technology is advancing at such a rapid speed that existing laws can feel restrictive. However, understanding how current law works can protect users from legal issues.
In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration has a “line of sight rule,” which is important for anyone operating a drone to understand. This rule mandates that drone operators keep the unmanned aircraft within eye shot at all times.
Locally, California Civil Code Section 1708.8 forbids drone use to record another person via sound and/or video without their consent.
Recreational vs. commercial use
Recreational and commercial drones are both subject to the line of sight rule. However, the FAA regulations for recreational drones and commercial drones differ, and are typically more lax for recreational use.
For instance, there are no pilot requirements for operating a recreational drone, but commercial drone pilots must have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate, be at least 16 years old and pass a Transportation Security Administration vetting process.
In both applications, drones must be registered if they weigh more than 0.55 lbs, but commercial drones are also subject to a pre-flight check for safe operating conditions.
Recreational drones must be five miles from airports if they aren’t providing advanced notification to airport and air traffic control. Commercial drones can only operate within Class G Airspace, which is all airspace below 14,500 feet and typically anything very near the ground (1,200 feet or less).
In regards to operating regulations, while all drones must yield right of way to manned aircraft, commercial drones are additionally not allowed to fly over humans or a moving vehicle, and must remain under 400 feet and fly at or below 100 mph.
Drone law is ever evolving, but following existing FAA rules and regulations can keep operators of any kind from facing unexpected legal issues.
California is no stranger to radical expression of strongly held personal beliefs. Aviation is just one of the many ways messages transmit across a large audience. However, anytime these attempts encroach upon the legal ordinances set in place, a legal matter is certain to arise.
Drone mission failure
In recent news, a man from California is facing criminal charges brought against him after scattering ‘anti-media’ propaganda over multiple NFL stadiums. The man used his drone to drop the pamphlets onto the field, which is illegal. The infraction happened when the man had his unmanned aircraft spread propaganda with his personally held beliefs about the media over San Francisco and Oakland stadiums.
The timing of these deliveries happened while a full crowd was present to watch two competing NFL teams play a game. The messages promoted free speech while denigrating television’s influence on individual’s beliefs, attitudes and behavior.
Legal consequences for drone operators
Drone laws may vary by state and city limits, but California has clear restrictions against flying drones within close proximity of public events. In this particular case, the drone flew during NFL games, violating a Santa Clara ordinance, stating drones may not come within 500 yards of the stadium. Anyone found guilty of breaking this or any other drone law is subject to hefty fines, permit revocation, and/or jail time. Understanding the laws about drones can keep you out of trouble with the law or help you in your defense should charges ever be brought against you.
What odd or unsafe uses of drones have you witnessed?