Insurance considerations when owning a drone

Drones, formally known as unmanned aerial vehicles or remotely piloted aircraft systems, have gained significant commercial momentum over the past few years. While these aerial vehicles come at an expensive price, many people now buy one as a toy or it forms part of a hobby. People who own a drone need to ensure that they add it to their insurance portfolio to avoid financial loss should this expensive item get damaged.

This is according to Ronelle Taylor, Regional Manager: Western Cape and Eastern Cape at MUA Insurance Acceptance, who says the use of drones are usually governed by the Civil Aviation Act.  “Should the drone however be used as a toy for private and recreational use, the owner should definitely add it to their personal insurance policy. If there is any element of business use for the device, it should be insured under the owner’s commercial insurance policy.”

“It is very important for the consumer to fully understand what their insurance policy will cover and what exclusions apply if the drone is under their personal policy. Some insurers will not even insure a drone at all under their existing policies, while another insurer might only include cover for theft of the drone.  Under the latter circumstances, for example, damage caused by the drone or damage sustained to the drone whilst in use (in the air) will typically not be covered by the insurance policy,” explains Taylor.

Some insurers might also require the owners to have a remote pilot license (RPL) in order to cover the drone under their policies. She explains that the regulations to obtain this license came into force on 1 July 2015. “A valid RPL license and operator certificate is required for people who use drones in a commercial, corporate, a non-profit organisation capacity. There are also different requirements for using the drone for private use. Drone owners who do not adhere to the regulations can be liable to pay a fine.”

She provides the below tips for drone operators to ensure that they are within the rules and regulations approved by Civil Aviation;

  • The drone must not be flown 400ft above ground level and within a radius of 10km from an aerodrome;
  • It cannot be used within restricted, prohibited, or controlled airspace;
  • It cannot be flown adjacent to or above a nuclear power plant, prison, police station, crime scene, court of law, national key point or strategic installation;
  • Don’t fly the drone at night
  • Don’t let the drone go beyond the pilot’s line of sight, the operator must be able to see the drone at all times;
  • The drone must not be flown directly overhead any person or group of people, or within a lateral distance of 50m from any structure or building;
  • Do not fly the drone over a public road, along the length of a public road or at a lateral distance of less than 50m from a public road;
  • Always be wary to not invade or trespass any individual’s privacy while operating the drone.

“Drones must be operated on the property owned by the drone operator or on property where the operator has the necessary permission to fly it. It is advisable for all drone owners to speak to their insurance provider or broker to ensure that their unmanned aircrafts are covered under their existing insurance policies,” concludes Taylor.

 

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