Do a search in any browser for “drone crashes,” and you’ll get a list of headlines that a few years ago might have read like they were pulled straight from a science fiction novel.
Statistics from early this year show that more than 770,000 drone registrations were filed with the federal government in a 15-month period, and the Federal Aviation Administration forecasts that over 7 million drones will be sold in the U.S. by 2020. That sort of traffic increase will inevitably lead to an increase in accidents.
Potential losses caused by drones
There are numerous scenarios that can lead to drone-related losses, and some of the more common ones that may result in insured losses include:
- Drone crashes causing personal injury or damage to property.
- Drone flyaways or crashes resulting in claims to repair or replace the drone.
- Drone collisions with manned aircraft.
- Fires originating from drone batteries or other electronics causing property damage.
- Litigation arising from drone privacy invasion claims.
Understanding restrictions & regulations
A comprehensive understanding of applicable FAA flight restrictions as well as state and local regulations may be key to determining liability. Restrictions vary significantly with location and will continue to change frequently as drone technology evolves.
6. Drone design & safety evaluation
As the size and flight speeds of drones increase, there is greater potential for personal injury as a result of accidents. However, even a small drone can cause severe injuries due to contact with its propeller(s) which may be rotating upwards of 10,000 rpm. Personal injury claims may warrant an expert analysis of the drone’s design and safety features to identify deficiencies.
7. NTSB investigations
Any accident involving a collision between a drone and a manned aircraft, as well as many accidents resulting from commercial drone flight operations, will require a thorough investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board which will provide valuable information for handling associated claims.
With the number of drones in the skies projected to explode in the coming years, the industry can expect a significant increase in insurance claims related to drone accidents and failures. There are even more drone-related risks on the horizon: Heavy-lift delivery drones flying overhead create greater exposure; large, expensive drones inspecting sensitive infrastructure risk potential crash damages and business interruption; and the projected widespread use of drones for numerous and diverse applications opens up the possibility of accidents in new places.
As carriers work to adapt policy language and coverage to the new risks presented by drones, new tools and techniques will likewise be needed to properly investigate these claims.