All through the evolution of drones the 800 pound gorilla in the room has been the matter of insurance. While some countries mandate insurance as part of the drone licensing process, the US has largely side-stepped the issue. Early mentions of requiring drone insurance faded away as the regulations progressed.
Many recreational operators have justifiably assumed coverage under their homeowner’s insurance.
“Homeowner’s insurance has always covered radio controlled aircraft and so far, drones are falling under this classification,” Skyward CEO Jonathan Evans told Dronelife. “But underwriters are beginning to rethink this policy.”
The AMA does provide insurance for its members, but that coverage is limited to non-commercial use and restricted to AMA fields and activities.
For commercial operators, the situation is more complex. The “cowboy” competition has a competitive advantage, feeling no compulsion for licensing or insurance. Couple that with the cost – A typical commercial policy, even for a single DJI phantom, generally runs over $1,000 a year. Add that to the other costs, and commercial viability becomes an serious issue for the small operator.
One important step in solving the insurance problem for the small operator has coem from Verifly. The company offers on-the-spot “instant” hourly insurance coverage for the small commercial operator, with rates running from $10 to $25 for an hour’s coverage. But the plan, as good as it may appear, has a hidden problem. If an operator has obtained permission to operate in a restricted area either by COA, through the FAA’s new online ATC clearance system, or directly from a local heliport operator, the Verifly app would not provide coverage, as Southern Helicam encountered on more than one occasion (see image at left). We did have permission from the local heliport operator (a helicopter repair and maintenance facility), but there was no way to bypass the block in the Verifly app.
So we contacted Verifly about the problem, and they responded. They are working on a revision to the app to solve the problem. In an email to Southern Helicam, Verifly described the future update this way:
It will allow you to self-certify that you have the proper authorization to fly there. It is on the honor system but the user will be making legal representations about this. But since there are so many kinds of authorizations a user could get (part 107 – class G airspace, FAA waiver, permission from a stadium owner, etc) we are not specific about getting the authorization from the user. (Eugene Hertz, Verifly Customer Service)
Of course, this solution would only apply to class G airspace and the issue of special COAs for other airspace classes would be a separate issue, but this is another step in the right direction and a welcome solution from Verifly. Southern Helicam is expecting to be included among the beta testers for the next Verifly app release, so we’ll let you know more as we see how it works.
We are grateful that Verifly® is helping to solve one of the problems facing the small commercial drone operator.