First come the toy drones; then the liability claims start flying. “Almost no one is thinking about insurance coverage when they’re opening the box,” says Jeff Antonelli, a Chicago attorney who specializes in federal regulations for unmanned aerial systems.
The liability protection in homeowners or renters insurance policies will sometimes cover damage or injury from a drone crashing into a neighbor’s house, vehicle, or child. Yet this coverage isn’t universal, Antonelli says, and some policies specifically carry an aviation exclusion that encompasses recreational drones, which the Federal Aviation Administration currently classifies as small aircraft.
One of the only insurance policies designed to cover hobbyist drone pilots comes from membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which charges adults $75 per year. All the group’s 185,000 members enjoy $2.5 million in personal liability coverage from Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance, part of ACE Group, and $25,000 medical coverage.
“Most of the claims we have are small claims,” says Rich Hanson, the AMA’s director of government relations. The most common case involves an out-of-control drone flying into a car. The AMA declined to reveal how many claims on average are filed per year.
The FAA classification will provide a lot of wiggle room for insurance companies inclined to use it. Meanwhile the sharks are finning towards the feast. Interesting to note the number of drone and car claims.