Commercial Drone Operators Should View Insurance Options

09/04/19 General

Commercial drone operators should view their insurance options, ahead of new drone laws due to be introduced in November 2019, which extend control in an area that has been problematic in terms of both safety and legality.

Sectors such as agriculture and construction have been quick to adopt drone usage, but others deploying this technology have been media sector professionals and commercial photographers. Drone footage can enhance corporate Powerpoint presentations, launches and wedding mementos, as well as showcasing venues and properties. However, it is essential that anyone using drones commercially is legally allowed to fly them and not caught out by other legislation.

Drone’s over 250g in weight cannot be legally flown after November 1, unless the ‘pilot’ has registered with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and can prove they have passed the required online safety tests. Winter 2018 saw high-profile incidents around Gatwick and other airports and the powers that be are determined to clamp down on drone usage. An exclusion zone around airports will soon be extended to 5km and take-off and landing areas will be better protected by legal no-go zones.

Failure to register and pass the online tests will result in fines of up to £1000 being levied. Additionally, any property thought to belong to drone users who have broken the law can now be searched more easily, due to new police powers and entry rights.

Contravening the July 2018 legislation, which made flying a drone at heights over 400 feet illegal, can result in a fine of up to £2500, or a prison sentence of five years, should negligent or reckless behaviour pose a risk to aircraft.

Then there are privacy laws. Drones operated commercially in residential areas could be accused of invading individuals’ rights to privacy, particularly if carrying cameras. Footage may well fall under the terms of the Data Protection Act and sharing images with others could result in serious outcomes. Additionally, it is illegal to film anywhere that lies within 50 metres of people or property without permission.

The Data Protection Act covers images of individuals, with this protection extending to any information that can be picked up from the images. Drone users should follow CCTV best practice, consulting with those potentially affected and making the purpose of their drone flight clear. They should also be on their guard when sharing images and delete any images that are not being used.

Cases of harassment by drone could escalate in the coming years, as UK privacy laws tighten, so anyone connected with commercial drone flights should get their insurance house in order quickly. Types of protection that might be required include legal expenses cover, but also Directors & Officers insurance, which will help you defend yourself, if any action is brought against you. Remember that even the actions of an employee can lead to a director being sued, as the law makes you, as a director, responsible for employees’ actions.

To talk to an expert about these covers, and the public liability insurance you will definitely require when flying drones commercially outdoors, please get in touch.