Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) – also known as drones – are growing in popularity both as a hobby and for business purposes. Businesses (think Amazon Prime Air) and industries (such as agriculture) are finding useful ways to utilize drones, and hobbyists are capturing incredible video and pictures. But, as many recent news reports have shown, improper use of drones can cause safety and privacy concerns. Earlier this month, hobby drones over a wildfire prevented firefighters from sending out helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working on finalizing Small UAS rules, but that isn’t expected until the end of 2016. In the meantime, there are regulations and safety guidelines that drone users – personal, business and public entities – are expected to follow. The FAA has partnered with several associations to create Know Before You Fly, a campaign designed to promote the safe use of UAS, where more information can be found.

Recreational (Personal) Users

  • What is a Recreational User? A recreational user is someone who uses the drone for personal interest and enjoyment. For example, a person uses the drone to take photographs. However, if a person tries to sell the photographs it is considered commercial use. People should check with the FAA on what is considered recreational use.
  • Safety Guidelines. Know Before You Fly has put together a complete list of safety guidelines for recreational Small UAS users.

Business (Commercial) Users

  • What is a Commercial Use? Any commercial use related to a business, including selling photos or videos, and providing contract or professional services (i.e., cinema photography for a film production or providing mapping or land surveying services).
  • Authorization Needed. The FAA currently authorizes the use of UAS on a case-by-case basis. Check with the FAA to determine what constitutes a commercial use and the paperwork needed to be authorized.

Public Entities

  • What is a Public Entity? A public entity includes state and federal agencies, law enforcement, fire departments, and public colleges and universities.
  • Authorization Needed. A public entity must apply for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the FAA. A COA can be applied for on the FAA Web site.

Drones are a constantly changing environment; more and more insurance companies are offering coverage. It is important to not only insure the drone itself, but also consider liability insurance in case a drone causes personal injury.

If you are thinking about purchasing a drone, contact Meyer Insurance and we can help you with your insurance needs.

Sources: Federal Aviation Administration; Know Before You Fly