HomeAn All-Too-Important Primer on Insuring Your Drone Activities

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by Adam Ottke

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AIG’s recent move to begin insuring unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) marked the beginning of the first large, national insurance company to get ahead of (or catch up with) the “drone movement.” Like this season’s migration of Canadian geese, everyone seems to be flocking in droves, clearly intent on getting to the online shopping outlets and local electronics stores that sell the latest drones. But few actually know about how to use their newly affordable crafts safely and without risking their entire life’s savings. A quick phone call with the Hill & Usher insurance agency led us to a few clues about where to start.
Introduction
The agent I spoke with was originally responding to a request for background information on another story, but the conversation that ensued led to troves of information that too few of us have thought to consider. And that might be a life-changing or deadly mistake.

Don’t get me wrong. Drones aren’t that unsafe. But then again, in certain instances, they can be. Strike a power line at the wrong angle and cause a fire that burns down a building, and you could be in some fairly hefty legal trouble. Slice through a bridesmaid’s cheek on her wedding day? Same story. Not to mention your business’ reviews would certainly take a hit for that.

While insurance can’t cover your bad business reviews, there’s a lot that Hill & Usher has been working on in collaboration with numerous underwriters to help their photographers and production managers find the proper coverage. The biggest takeaway, however, is to know that, as much as you think your current insurance might cover you in the case of an incident with your drone, the odds that you’re mistaken are greater than 90 percent. Most insurance companies have exclusions for any type of aircraft. And those that don’t could find numerous ways of fighting your claim with their likely-purposefully-vague language on the topic.

To be clear, you don’t at all have to insure through a Hill & Usher agent. But they are a well-known company that primarily services those in creative industry, and having an agent is almost a requirement in order to properly navigate what will likely always be a complicated drone aviation insurance market. So go through anyone you can find, but if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Types of Coverage for UAVs
​Just as you do for any ground activities, there are two main categories of coverage that most concern the drone photographer: liability coverage and equipment coverage (otherwise known as “hull” and “payload” coverage).

Commercial General Liability Coverage
Liability is always a big issue. While beginners might roll their eyes at the idea of having to be covered for knocking over a $10,000 vase on a shoot (which, of course, they would “never” do), the reality is that your business is at incredible risk any time you step onto a set or location. And it doesn’t even have to directly be your fault to do serious harm to your life. An assistant could make a mistake running cables or knock over a candle that might burn an entire building down. A guest at a party could be slightly intoxicated and stumble right into the middle of the line you’re flying with your drone. Again, not necessarily his fault.

You can blame our legal system, but the reality is that you wouldn’t expect to have to pay for a vendor burning your house down when you’re hosting your grandparents for their 75th anniversary party. So why should someone else pay for your mistake? Being covered is the ethical thing to do not just because it covers you and your family from a potential catastrophe, but also because it protects everyone we share our world with from the same potential catastrophe should you not be able to afford fixing the damage you or your business cause.

The largest issues with drones come from the facts that they are human health hazards and that they can run into just about anything (and who knows what kind of Rube Goldberg machine nature has cooked up for us out there?). While your standard general liability insurance likely wouldn’t cover an incident with an aircraft, policies like AIG’s new plans or like those that have been offered through agencies like Hill & Usher can protect you in any of these circumstances.