If you've been flying drones as a hobbyist, drone insurance likely isn't something you've given much consideration to. On the other hand, if you're in the commercial drone world, drone insurance is probably something you've started looking into. In any case, drone insurance is something that all pilots should consider.
Virtually everyone that has been flying drones for more than a day will attest to the tragic reality that every pilot will have an accident at some point in time. Don't worry, I'm not insulting your piloting skills! The fact of the matter is that very few, if any, drone operators don't experience an accident of some kind. Whether it be a bird strike, a crash, or a flyaway, you never know when the unthinkable will happen. Between pilot error and external factors, an accident is bound to happen at some point, and it's wise to be prepared for it.
Regardless of whether you fly recreationally or commercially, drone insurance is a good idea for a few reasons. Drone insurance can cover the cost of your drone itself in the event of an accident, and it can give you liability protection if your drone injures someone or causes property damage. For these reasons, drone insurance is something for all pilots to consider.
Luckily, there are insurance options available for just about every kind of drone pilot.
For simplicity, we've split this guide into two sections — insurance for recreational pilots and insurance for commercial pilots.
Types of Insurance
Before we get into it, it's important to differentiate between the two different kinds of coverage available to drone pilots — hull coverage and liability coverage.
Hull coverage is exactly what it sounds like — coverage for the drone itself, or the “hull” of the aircraft. Getting hull coverage is a good idea in general, but it's especially prudent to have it if you fly more expensive drones. One mistake or technological error could send your expensive drone hurtling to the ground.
Hull insurance will cover the cost of your drone in the event of an accident. Remember when we said that the vast majority of pilots will have an accident at some point in their piloting career? This kind of insurance coverage sure will come in handy when that day comes.
The cost of this kind of coverage depends on the value of the drone you want to insure.
Liability insurance is another type of coverage you can get. This insurance covers liability claims such as personal injury, property damage, or privacy claims. In other words, liability insurance covers the cost of any damage done by your drone that you're liable for.
For example, liability insurance would cover the cost of medical treatment for someone that was cut by your drone's propellers or otherwise injured by the drone.
In the same way, liability insurance would cover the cost of property damage that resulted from your drone. For example, if your drone crashes through a window of an office building and knocks someone's coffee cup over, spilling coffee on their expensive computer and ruining it, your liability coverage would pay for the damages.
Generally speaking, drone pilots can purchase between $500,000 and $10,000,000 of liability coverage. For most drone pilots that fly smaller drones, the bottom end of the liability coverage range should be sufficient. However, pilots that fly bigger, heavier drones around expensive equipment should consider getting more liability coverage.
Drone Insurance Options For Recreational Pilots
If you're a recreational pilot, don't be too quick to dismiss the idea of purchasing drone insurance. Hobbyists are generally the ones that experience the most accidents. The good news is that there are cost-effective insurance options available to you to help prepare you for the tragic day that a bird snatches your drone, the battery falls off mid-flight, or the drone decides to fly away on its own.
As a hobbyist pilot, your first concern is understandably covering the cost of your drone in the event of an accident or total loss. Lucky for you, several big insurance providers have started offering insurance policies for drone pilots.
State Farm has become popular in the drone community as the leading provider of hull insurance for recreational pilots.
Starting around $65 per year with little to no deductible, State Farm offers recreational pilots a comprehensive hull coverage policy. This is a remarkably cheap option to insure the cost of your drone itself.
Liberty Mutual is another insurance provider that offers hull coverage for drones.
Similarly to State Farm, you can expect relatively low premiums, depending on the total insured value of the drone in question.
Just like State Farm, the only stipulation is that the drone must be used for recreational purposes only.
As a hobbyist pilot, you should consider purchasing liability insurance, especially if you do a lot of flying around people, buildings, or cars to protect you in the event of a worst-case scenario.
Drone technology is pretty incredible overall, but despite the reliability of most drones, a something like a faulty prop or battery can cause catastrophic failure in an instant. A personal injury or property damage claim as a result of your drone isn't fun, especially if you're just trying to enjoy a nice vacation.
If you only plan on flying your drone in remote areas or on your property, liability insurance isn't as important.
In my experience, one of the best ways to purchase liability insurance is with a smartphone application called Verifly. A ton of drone pilots use Verifly because the app is so easy to use. The interface is awesome, and it's very user-friendly.
On the Verifly app, you simply select your flight location, flight radius, flight duration, weight of the drone, and the amount of liability coverage you want to purchase. The app will then give you a price for liability coverage with the parameters you selected. You're free to customize the parameters however you want, and the price adjusts accordingly.
Verifly allows you to purchase the following amounts in liability coverage: $1 million, $2.5 million, $5 million, and $10 million.
You can purchase insurance coverage for 1 hour, 4 hours, or 8 hours.
As soon as you purchase coverage on Verifly, you'll receive an email with proof of your coverage that includes a map showing where you're covered.
The best thing about Verifly is that it gives you the ability to purchase coverage on a flight-by-flight basis only if you need it or want it. This is ideal for recreational drone pilots that might go days, weeks, or longer without flying. What's more, you can simply resort to Verifly's liability coverage for the more risky flights, the times that you find yourself flying closer to people, around cities, or over vehicles.
Drone Insurance Options For Commercial Pilots
In the commercial drone world, insurance coverage is often required by clients. Your work might involve flying over buildings or expensive equipment, so having the right insurance is important.
For the commercial drone pilots out there, insurance options are a little bit more complicated.
When it comes to hull coverage for drones that are being used for commercial purposes, the options are limited. Perplexingly, most big name insurance companies don't give hull insurance policies to commercial pilots. The most likely explanation for this is that insurance companies think that commercial operators are more of a liability than recreational pilots because they presumably fly more often and in more risky environments.
With that said, there are still hull coverage options for commercial pilots. The caveat is that, in order to get hull coverage, pilots typically have to bundle it with a liability policy. Let's look at some examples.
Verifly is also a great choice for commercial pilots for the same reasons we've already mentioned. However, the instant proof of insurance that Verifly provides is particularly useful for commercial operators.
Many clients want to see proof of liability insurance before you do a job for them. If you use Verifly, simply show the client your confirmation email or forward the email to them.
SkyWatch is another insurance option for commercial pilots, and it has become particularly well known.
The cool thing about this insurance provider is that they offer on-demand liability insurance or a monthly, flat-rate policy that can include both hull and liability coverage.
On-Demand Liability Coverage
SkyWatch has a smartphone app that functions similarly to Verifly for on-demand insurance. Simply select your flight parameters and purchase insurance as you need it. The cost of insurance from both apps is virtually the same.
One feature that makes SkyWatch different from Verifly is that SkyWatch gives you more freedom to customize your flight area. You can tap the screen to create a flight area of virtually any shape, and the cost of insurance coverage will change accordingly. This feature gives SkyWatch the edge because you can select only the area you actually plan on flying in.
Let's look at an example of when SkyWatch is more advantageous. Let's say you plan on flying right in between two areas of controlled airspace. You can adjust the flight area to avoid the controlled airspace and, by extension, avoid paying a higher cost of insurance. But with Verifly, you're stuck with a quarter-mile wide circular flight area to work with, which means you would end up paying for insurance for an area you won't actually fly in.
SkyWatch also offers a flat-rate monthly policy that's surprisingly inexpensive.
Let's look at some numbers. The cost to insure the full value of an Autel Evo ($1,000) with $1,000,000 of liability coverage at any time and at any place is $67.83 per month for the first month. After the first few months without claims, you'll get a small discount. Here's the pricing breakdown:
- $62 for $1,000,000 of liability coverage
- $5.83 for the hull coverage (0.58% of the drone's insured value)
In the event of an accident or total loss, the deductible to replace the drone would be $140.
This monthly policy from SkyWatch is an incredible deal for a few reasons that we'll discuss:
The liability coverage is valid anywhere and at any time. This means that you could fly in controlled airspace for several hours each day and night (assuming you had FAA authorization/waivers) for a whole month and you'll still only pay $62 for liability coverage. In other words, with SkyWatch, the amount that you pay doesn't depend on how often you fly. With on-demand insurance coverage from SkyWatch or Verifly, one flight in controlled airspace will run you about half the cost of an entire month's worth of flat-rate coverage. If you plan on doing more than a few flights in any given month, the monthly flat-rate policy is the best route. This is especially true if you plan on flying in areas deemed more risky.
With this option, you don't have to spend additional time purchasing insurance before each flight. This is helpful because it's one less thing on your preflight checklist.
Another good thing about the monthly policy is that you don't have to rush your flight. If you're a commercial drone operator, you understand that many jobs take a little bit longer than you initially plan for. This is especially true when you have to drive or walk around to different locations to get the shots you need. With on-demand insurance coverage, these situations can be particularly stressful. You feel like you're racing the clock to get your work done before your insurance coverage expires. You'll either pay more than you planned for more coverage, or you'll fly the rest of the job uninsured. Both of these are unattractive options, and SkyWatch's monthly policy is an excellent solution.
There's no contract or long term commitment. Your policy will renew every month automatically, but you're free to cancel at any time. If you won't be able to fly much or at all in any given month, you can easily cancel your policy. In this way, you won't have to pay for coverage that you won't need.
SkyWatch takes little information into consideration when creating your premium. As long as your drone is under 55 pounds, the only factor that affects your premium is the amount of liability coverage you want to purchase. For example, $500,000 of coverage costs $35 and $10,000,000 of coverage costs $285. This is also beneficial because it means that there's no correlation between the number of industries you work in and your premium.
SkyWatch lets you add coverage for multiple drones. For just a few more dollars each month, all of your drones can be protected. You can also add coverage for different accessories. If you fly a drone with interchangeable cameras, this option is great. This makes SkyWatch an even more cost-effective insurance solution.
Your premium goes down when you fly safely. If you fly safely and don't file any claims with SkyWatch, you can earn discounts on your premium. This shows that SkyWatch genuinely values safety, and they'll reward you for flying safely.
Travers & Associates
Travers & Associates is a company that provides insurance coverage to all kinds of aviators, with drone pilots included. This insurance provider offers bundled hull and liability coverage, but it differs from SkyWatch in a few ways.
Travers & Associates offers coverage on an annual basis. In this way, you'll be paying for a long term commitment. However, their rates are competitive; To insure an Autel Evo with $1,000,000 of liability coverage, Travers & Associates quoted me $640 per year.
Travers & Associates generates each rate based on the drone's size, weight, and the different ways it'll be used. This is a potential downside to this particular provider. Your insurance premium will depend on the different fields or industries in which you use your drone. For example, using your drone in the construction and engineering industries will mean a higher premium than the premium for using your drone for real estate. This means that branching into new industries will result in an increased insurance premium.
This provider also takes into account whether or not you have formal drone training, which could get you a lower rate.
There's inherently a lot of risks involved in flying drones. Whether you fly as a hobbyist or commercially, a lot can go wrong during any given flight. You should consider both hull and liability insurance to protect your drone and to cover the costs of an accident.
There is no “best” insurance provider per se. The best way to figure out which provider to go with is to think about how you intend to use your drone, how often you fly, and what level of coverage is best for you. Once you've figured that out, the best policy for you is the one that gives you the protection you need for the best price. There are a lot of options, so you'll be able to find the one that's right for you.
Once insured, you'll be able to fly stress-free knowing that you're protected.