By Carson Lyons, VP – Global Product Line Manager, General Aviation, AIG

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones have nearly unlimited potential applications outside the military including law enforcement, research, filmmaking, and even Amazon deliveries. The commercial drone market was worth $552 million in 2014, and it’s expected to reach $5.59 billion by 2020. 

Because many UAVs only weigh a few pounds, some people make the mistake of viewing them as just another business tool —but drones are still aircraft, which means they bring a different set of risks and liabilities. 

Drones have the potential to revolutionize business, but just as organizations are becoming aware of their advantages, they also need to be aware of the risks involved. Even if you are abiding by regulations, they could still be open to potential liability. 

5 Things to Consider Before Using UAVs

Here are a few things to ask when working with drone clients:

  1. What are you flying? The make and model of the UAV provides insight to its capabilities and how it might be used. 
  2. What do you plan to use it for? Is the UAV taking pictures or recording video? What does the drone operator intend to do with that video? Make sure you understand the regulations for UAVs so their usage falls under what’s considered legal in the U.S.
  3. Who will be operating it? The experience of the operator is a key factor when determining whether or not to insure a drone. Does the operator  have an aviation background or training on best practices? Has he or she ever flown a drone before? 
  4. Where are you using it? There’s a significant difference between flying aUAV under 400 feet off the ground and flying at higher altitudes, where it may be necessary to engage with air traffic controllers. Operating in an urban environment also poses a greater risk than a rural area, as a higher concentration of people and property increases the possibility of an accident or claim.
  5. Does your business have written policies for operation? If you are using the UAV for business, your company should have rules in place for who can operate the drone as well as where and when. Will operators be flying at night? What about in bad weather? Does your company have procedures for coordinating with air traffic control facilities if operators need to fly near an aviation facility? All these factors are important considerations when looking at the risks involved.

Keep in mind that regulations will vary depending on the country of operation and whether the drone is intended for business or consumer use. For instance, Canada requires UAVs to have at least $100,000 in limited liability insurance for operation, whereas the U.S. has no such requirement. Regardless of where the drone is operated, the main factor when insuring one is going to be the drone’s intended use.

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