Orlando, Fla.—You have probably heard or read that in October of last year, the current government administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new drone integration pilot program designed to expedite the integration of drones into the national airspace system.
Just like cell phones and the Internet -- which began as military communication tools -- drones equipped with video cameras have quickly become popular with hobbyists and can be found in most toy stores. Commercial interests and research entities have found novel new ways to use these small, pilotless vehicles as well.
The new rule was actually championed by big tech companies like Amazon and Google, and by drone industry players like Intel and DJI. Sensible regulations, they argued, would pave the way for faster growth of the industry overall. Previously, in December 2015, the FAA had announced that drone owners had to register any device over 0.55 pounds.
This new drone integration pilot program hopes to facilitate the delivery of life-saving medicines and commercial packages, inspections of critical infrastructure, support for emergency management operations, and surveys of crops for precision agriculture applications. The pilot program will include testing of new UAS traffic management systems and detection and tracking capabilities, which are needed to fully integrate UAS operations into the national airspace system.
The initiative creates a regulatory framework that officials say will encourage innovation while ensuring airspace safety. The program aims to accelerate testing of currently restricted unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations, such as beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights and flights over people.
Damage or injuries caused by a drone used for commercial (i.e. business) purposes will not be covered by a homeowners policy.
Commercial drone operators can purchase commercial aviation insurance to cover property damage and liability caused by a drone. The policy would cover the drone, its equipment and remote control systems. Commercial aviation companies use underwriting processes similar to ones used for manned aircraft policies to cover drones.
If a drone for personal use is damaged in an accident it is most likely covered under a homeowners insurance policy (subject to a deductible). Coverage also applies to renters insurance. The liability portion of a homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that a policyholder causes to other people with a drone. It may also cover privacy issues–for example if a drone inadvertently takes pictures or videotapes a neighbor who then sues the policyholder.
It will not cover any intentional invasion of privacy. Realtors need to be well aware of these restrictions when producing aerial views of a property intended to be marketed. The policy will cover theft of a drone. On the other hand, a no-fault medical coverage policy may provide coverage if someone is accidentally injured by your drone. However, this coverage will not pay medical bills for a policyholder’s family members or pets if they are injured by the policyholder’s drone.
In addition to federal drone regulations, states also have passed laws regulating the use of drones by individuals, businesses, law enforcement, and other interests. In the State of Florida, Drones may not be used for surveillance in violation of another party's reasonable expectation of privacy; this includes law enforcement. However, police may use drones with a valid search warrant. Violators may be ordered to pay legal fees and compensatory damages; victims may seek injunctive relief. You may click here for more information about this piece of legislation in our state.