Due to High Volume of Purchases, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Reminds Consumers to Review Coverage Options Before Purchasing a Drone This Holiday Season

Dec 14, 2015, 12:26 ET from Pennsylvania Insurance Department

HARRISBURG, Pa., Dec. 14, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In another push for consumer protection, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller reminded consumers today to review their insurance coverage if they are planning on purchasing a drone during the upcoming holiday season.

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates as many as one million drones will be sold during the upcoming holiday season," Commissioner Miller said.  "While drones can offer both recreation and practical benefits for property owners, consumers should make sure they have the coverage they need before their drone takes flight."

The FAA defines drones as "unmanned air vehicles," and pilots of unmanned aircraft have the same responsibility to fly safely as manned aircraft pilots. Drones can crash for a number of reasons, including faulty or inappropriate operation, mechanical defects, or component failure. Proper insurance for these aircrafts could save consumers from paying for these damages out of pocket.

Using a private drone as a hobby is generally covered under a homeowners or renters insurance policy, as it is similar to a radio-controlled model airplane. However, consumers should look over the contents section of their policies, or talk with their insurance professional, to make sure a drone is covered if it is lost, stolen, or damaged.

"A bigger issue to consider is whether you have liability coverage if your drone crashes into someone, or another person's vehicle or property," Commissioner Miller said.  "In many cases, if you have liability coverage in your homeowners or renters policy, this will cover damage from a drone, but it is a good idea to check with your insurer before putting your drone in the sky."

Beyond potential physical damage, drones are often equipped with on-board cameras and other data-collection capabilities, which can pose a threat to privacy. Drones may capture private data that could be harmful or embarrassing if shared, whether intentionally or accidentally.  Drone owners should be aware of privacy concerns, and talk to their insurer about this issue.  Many insurers are still developing policies to cover liability concerning privacy violations.

Commercial use of drones is still largely restricted and approved by the FAA on a case by case basis. FAA rules for the use of commercial drones are still being developed, so business owners should consult their insurers. In addition to the FAA, states and municipalities may also have specific laws about drone use, so consumers should research these as well.  Currently, Pennsylvania has no laws concerning drone use, but specific municipalities may.

The FAA has issued these general guidelines for drone pilots:

  • Don't fly higher than 400 feet and stay clear of surrounding obstacles;
  • Keep the aircraft in sight at all times;
  • Stay away from manned aircraft;
  • Don't fly within five miles of an airport unless you contact the airport and control tower before flying;
  • Avoid flying near people or stadiums;
  • Don't fly an aircraft that weighs more than 55 pounds.

Any consumers with questions about insurance can reach the Insurance Department at www.insurance.pa.gov, then click on "Consumers", or call 1-877-881-6388.

MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman, Insurance Department, 717-787-3289

SOURCE Pennsylvania Insurance Department