According to market sources, more than 200,000 people can expect to find a drone under the Christmas tree this year…or perhaps hovering nearby. The introduction into the market of “out of the box, ready to use” drones has turned what was once limited to hobbyists into the current craze. But safety officials have serious concerns. Though no one has died yet in an accident involving a drone, there have been numerous reports of serious injury and incidents where drones have crashed into buildings, hit cars or run into bystanders.
At present, federal regulations do not cover drones. There’s no license requirement and no training or safety programs that users must complete before flying the devices. Hobbyists say that newer products, such as the DJI Phantom, are ready to operate right out of the box, unlike traditional radio-controlled aircraft. They point out that, when hobbyists must assemble the aircraft, there is necessarily a learning curve, where users develop skills by operating the device at low altitudes and slower speeds.
The key question, then, if you find a drone under the tree, is how to protect yourself from liability should you cause damage or injury while learning to operate the device. In the past, most similar types of accidents—caused by hobbyists—would fall under the coverage provided in a homeowner’s policy. However, many insurance companies have taken measures over the last year to specifically exclude drone accidents from coverage under those policies. Accordingly, you’ll want to carefully review your homeowner’s policy before your initial flight. If drone accidents are excluded, you’ll want to obtain a separate policy to cover potential liability.