Insure a Safe Flight


If you were lucky enough to get a drone for Christmas, there are a few things you should know before taking it out for your first test drive. Much ink has been spilled on this topic of late, so I’ll do my best to keep this succinct.

Drones technically fall under the oversight of Transport Canada and its Canadian Aviation Regulations. However, recreational drones have so far eluded formal regulation. Basically, so long as your drone weighs less than 35kgs and is being used for recreational purposes only, you don’t need Transport Canada’s approval before taking off.

Now, this isn’t to say that drones are a complete free for all. There are still legitimate safety concerns associated with flying these devices. In light of that fact, Transport Canada provides a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for safe drone piloting. The “Don’ts” include:

  • Don’t fly closer than 9km from any airport, heliport, or aerodrome;
  • Don’t fly higher than 90 meters above the ground;
  • Don’t fly closer than 150 meters from people, animals, buildings, structures or vehicles; and
  • Don’t fly anywhere you may interfere with first responders.

However, as you might expect, these suggestions have been ignored by some pilots. A few of the resulting incidents have made the news. In August, a drone narrowly missed colliding with a seaplane at Vancouver International Airport. Last month in Belleville, a drone crashed into a parked car, causing damage.

It is evident that more regulation is necessary, and it’s only a matter of time before the use of drone is restricted in certain ways. In fact, Transport Canada has already given notice that it intends to amend existing regulations. This process will likely take some time to complete, but it’s important that recreational drone owners keep an eye on these developments. They have the potential to impact how you can (or cannot) use your drone going forward.

Another factor you may want to take into account before flying your drone is your insurance. What if you crash your drone into your neighbour’s house – will your homeowner’s insurance policy cover you? Unfortunately, there is no consensus in the insurance industry as to how that question should be answered. Most homeowners’ policies carry exclusions for injuries or damages arising out of the use of an “aircraft”. Interpretation becomes tricky, because these exclusions were not written with relatively sophisticated unmanned aircraft in mind. It’s not clear how these issues will be dealt with by insurance companies.

Just like on the regulatory front, there are signs of change in the insurance world as well. Both Zurich and Intact, for example, have already introduced insurance riders providing coverage for drones used for commercial purposes. It’s likely that personal insurance will follow suit, possibly in clarifying the definition of what constitutes an “aircraft”. Homeowner’s insurance companies may soon require you to purchase additional coverage to protect your drone-related activities.

This is a shifting landscape. At this point, all you can do is use your best judgment so as to not become a test case for drone negligence. It may be worthwhile to call your insurance company and get their opinion on coverage in writing, before an accident occurs. That way, at least you will know the extent of your risks before taking flight.

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