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Drone insurance

Want a bird's-eye view of drone insurance? Then we've got just the guide for you.

Key points

  • Small unmanned drones embarking on recreational flights are still regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  • Even if your drone is fitted with a camera, you must maintain a visual line of sight with the aircraft at all times
  • If your drone is fitted with a camera, you need special permission from the CAA to fly it within 150m of a congested area, or above a gaggle of more than 1,000 people

As the UK drone industry takes flight, drone insurance is becoming a must-have. A gadget insurance policy may cover your high-flying antics... But if you want complete protection, drone insurance is well worth investigating. 

So, if you know your SUA from your UAV, but you’re torn between pay-as-you-fly and annual cover, you’re in the right place. 

What does drone insurance cover? 

Drone insurance covers you for damage to your drone, or against claims made by someone whose property your drone may accidentally damage. So, if you lose control of the drone and it falls on to someone’s car, you’ll be covered for both the damage to the drone and for the claim from the driver. 

Your home insurance policy may include gadget cover or personal possessions cover, both of which could protect your drone at home or when taking to the skies. However, not all such policies cover drones, so it may be worth investing in a specific drone insurance policy.  

Hobby drone insurance 

A lot of drone pilots use them for fun, whether for the technical joys like those of a model aeroplane enthusiast or to take stunning aerial photographs. If you’re only flying a drone for personal fun, you don’t technically need a specific drone insurance policy.  

However, it may still be worth taking out a pay-as-you-fly policy, which protects your drone only when you choose to fly it. Alternatively, check with your home or gadget insurance provider to see if your drone can be covered under those policies. 

Did you know...?

There’s a social network for drone enthusiasts called Dronestagram

Commercial drone insurance 

Although hobby drone pilots don’t need insurance, commercial drone pilots do need insurance. At the minimum, if you're caught flying an uninsured drone, you may face fines. 

If your drone does then damage someone’s property, or cause them injury, you could be facing stratospheric legal costs for a claim made against you. These might be covered by your drone policy if you've included trespassing cover, for example.  

Commercial drone insurance policies vary between providers, but most include personal/public liability cover if someone does make a claim against you for damage or injury. You can also include cover for the theory and practical exams involved in becoming a commercial pilot. 

Optional extras include cover for drone theft, damage incurred by a third-party pilot, and loss of drone mid-air or in transit.  

What is the drone code?

In 2016, at a Russian medieval re-enactment event, one photographer was using a drone to capture a video of the event. Infamously, one of the actors hurled his spear at the drone, bringing it down.  

The incident is now immortalised on social media, but it also highlights just how true-to-life the phrase “what goes up, must come down” really is when it comes to drones. 

Drones are not just at risk of errant spears, however. At heights of 400ft and above, they run the risk of colliding with a manned aircraft, which could cause a serious accident. 

There is also the risk of damage to buildings, or to people on the ground. 

To mitigate this, the government worked with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to publish a drone code in 2017. This consists of six guidelines to help pilots fly their drones safely.  

Pay-as-you-fly 

There are two ways of paying for drone insurance. The traditional, annual policy, or a new method is known as pay-as-you-fly (PAFL).  

The traditional annual policy splits your payments into monthly instalments, just as your other insurance policies and the price naturally varies between providers. This would work better for commercial pilots. 

Did you know...?

Pilots who feel the need for speed can join the Drone Racing League

While it may be more expensive than PAFL in general, a commercial pilot might well make their money back in their work flying the drone. Some commercial pilots have even worked on famous films, using drones in place of expensive helicopters or complicated rig set-ups.  

How PAFL works will vary between providers, but using the bespoke apps created by the providers, you can sometimes get instant cover. Some providers offer cover per flight, while others offer it for up to a week at the time. This works better for amateur and hobbyist drone pilots who just want to enjoy an afternoon’s flying, or are planning a week’s holiday in the Lake District and want to take some aerial photographs.  

PAFL generally works out cheaper than an annual policy. The apps that go with it are designed to check for risks, so safer flights incur cheaper insurance costs. 

So whether you're a professional drone aviator, or just using selfie drones for social media LOLs, it's well worth finding the level of drone cover that suits your needs. 

Legalities of flying your drone

The CAA regulates drone flights where the aircraft weighs 20kg or less. So whether you're a wedding photographer capturing party shots from the sky, or a hobbyist checking out the coastline from the waves, make sure you're following its regulations. 

Read about Article 241, Article 94 and Article 95 in more detail with the CAA, but to summarise:

  • You must fly your drone safely
  • The drone must be within your sight line at all times. Seeing its flight path through a camera transmission doesn't count
  • Take extra care not to fly the drone into buildings, lamp-posts and other objects, especially not other aircraft
  • Don't drop 'articles' from the drone - cameras or parts, for instance 
  • If your drone is fitted with a camera, get extra permissions from the CAA to fly it within 150m of a congested area, or above a crowd that exceeds 1,000 people

If you breach the regulations and subsequently need to make a claim, you may find an insurer unwilling honour your policy. Make sure you thoroughly read your terms and conditions and buff up on the advice from the CAA before taking to the skies.

By Nick Dunn