January 7, 2016Client Alert

Drones: Insurance Coverage Issues

With new regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, or drones) and a seemingly never-ending expansion of use cases and attendant sources of liability, drone operators and those concerned about damage caused by drones need to carefully consider the role of insurance. As in other contexts, insurance—if carefully tailored and negotiated—can be an effective risk-transfer tool. 

Insurance that potentially covers loss related to drones is in flux, but generally falls into three categories: 

1. Specialty Aircraft Insurance: While specialty products related aircraft, including for unmanned aircrafts, have been on the market for a number of years, use of those products historically has been limited to individuals, companies and enterprises whose core business relates to aircrafts. This type of insurance is not always tailored to drones with cameras, which raise additional potential liability (e.g., invasion of privacy).

2. Commercial General Liability (CGL) Insurance: Most other insureds rely on a commercial general liability (CGL) policy to provide protection. But earlier this year, the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which proposes and makes changes to the standard CGL form used by most insurers, revised the provisions that might apply to drone-related liability. Some of these revisions purport to exclude coverage for liability related to drones that, for example, might arise from subcontractors’ or independent contractors’ operations for which the insured might be vicariously liable. Other changes to the CGL policy form require detailed attention to specific drones and projects or to whether violations of privacy might occur. The ISO changes warrant careful consideration, both when considering the purchase of insurance, as well as during contract negotiations where risk transfer is a significant issue.

3. Homeowners’ Insurance: Finally, for non-commercial insureds hoping to rely on their homeowners’ insurance policies, many insurers are seeking to include exclusions for drone-related liability in their new policies. Spend the time to learn whether or not your policy provides adequate coverage.

Purchasing insurance for drone-related liability is only the first step. Claims related to damage caused by drones are on the rise and will only continue to rise in the future. When faced with insurance claims, expect insurers to examine closely whether the insured complied with all applicable regulations, industry standards with respect to training, policies or procedures outlined in the application for insurance, and others.

In short, insurance can be an effective risk-transfer tool for commercial drone operators or those concerned about drone-related liability. The recent changes in policy terms and a rapidly-changing marketplace for insurance require diligence and specialized knowledge of how the offered insurance policy fits the insured’s potential liability.


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