Drone Insurance: The Basics

Research

With any big decision – moving house, buying a car, booking a holiday – comes the fuss of scouting providers, calculating liabilities and tweaking premiums. Not to mention the added pain of talking meerkats. Fortunately, when it comes to drones, the process is much easier than you would expect.

Insurance is a legal requirement for some pilots and a great-to-have for others. Today, I’m looking at the rules around drone insurance, what should be included in a policy and why it might be worth having, regardless of the legalities. 

The legal stuff: Do I need insurance?

Drone legislation is always a heated topic, so instead of getting lost in the legalities, let’s just see what the CAA’s Drone Code has to say about insurance for pilots.

The Drone Code states the following:

…If you fly a drone or model aircraft that weighs less than 20kg for fun, recreation, sport, or as a hobby, you can choose whether or not to have insurance.

 

If you fly for any other reason, you must have third party liability insurance…

 

…If your drone or model aircraft is 20kg or more, you must always have third party insurance, no matter what you use your aircraft for.

Without picking apart the legal definition of the word fun, we can make some guesses as to what this means for pilots.

For drones that weigh over 20kg, you need insurance. It doesn’t matter what you use the drone for – just get insured.

For drones that weigh under 20kg, you might need insurance, but it depends on why you are flying.

To keep it really simple: If you are a recreational drone pilot, or hobbyist, you probably don’t need insurance. If you are a commercial pilot, you probably need insurance.

Although the latest drone regulations do little to explicitly distinguish between these two groups, insurance appears to be the one area where hobbyists and working pilots are set apart. So if you’re flying for work, you probably need to get insured.

For more information about UK regulations, check out the links at the end of this article.

The non-legal stuff: Should I get insurance?

Legal stuff out the way (phew!) and there are some other pretty good reasons to get insured.

Price

It’s pretty cheap. We’re talking 10s, not 100s, for most hobbyists and small-time commercial users. I’ve personally bought hourly policies at just over £1 per hour, and found a rolling policy for around £20 per month. When the drone is worth hundreds (or more), it seems like a no-brainer to invest in a safety net, if only for peace of mind.

Money

Coverage

The policies themselves cover a lot. My experience with car insurance in the past has been a miserable one, with sky-high premiums and thousands of optional extras that don’t amount to much when it comes to claim time. Drone insurance is a lot more straightfoward, while covering most types of damage and usually offering hassle-free payouts, as long as the pilot has been flying safely and legally.

Cover

Local restrictions

There are a number of sites, clubs and events where insurance is a requirement for entry. Those of you familiar with the world of model aircraft will know that BMFA insurance is required at many flying fields in the UK. A similar scheme exists with FPV UK for model aircraft and drones. We’re starting to see these rules popping up at take-off spots more and more, so consider the added benefit of insurance opening up new locations.

Local restrictions

Drone insurance: What are my options?

Wait, what exactly is drone insurance?

I’ll caveat this part by saying I’m not an insurance expert. My limited experience of insurance is drawn from previous purchases of car, contents and travel insurance policies. A bit of research helped me put the pieces together with this next part.

Drone insurance usually consists of two distinct parts – “liability” and “equipment”.

Liability

Public liability or third party liability insurance covers damage and legal fees for property damage or bodily injury to a third party. So, if you crash into your neighbour’s fence, or hit a pedestrian – please try not to do this – and cause any damage, this is the insurance that you would be claiming from. Liability insurance is designed to offer protection against third-party claims, so it pays for the legal fees and repairs, but it won’t necessarily cover damage to your own kit.

Equipment

Equipment cover is for the drone itself, or any associated equipment. So, if your drone is damaged in a fall, or the camera lens cracks, or if the return to home malfunctions and your precious drone ends up diving propeller-first into a lake, this is how you would cover the cost of repair – or replacement.

Drone insurance policies may include one or both of the above, plus extra benefits like international cover, cover for theft, or the promise of a replacement drone while yours is being fixed. Each provider offers different terms and conditions for claims, so check the rules carefully before you buy.

Who can I buy drone insurance from?

Some of the big household names in car and home insurance do offer drone policies, but I think the best option is to choose a specialist drone insurance provider. They know the industry, they understand the kit and many of them fly in their spare time, so they are well-placed to help you answer any questions.

Check out the insurance page on our website by clicking here for more information on three of the popular specialists – Coverdrone, Flock and Moonrock

The future of drone insurance

With drone use increasing and the technology becoming more and more advanced, I was keen to find out how the industry has changed and what we might see in the future.

I spoke to each of the three specialist insurers mentioned above, asked about their experiences in a rapidly changing industry and tried to understand the current trends in drone insurance. Here are some of their thoughts:

Coverdrone

“We have been perfecting the Coverdrone product over the past 14 years, during that time we have always put customer service at the forefront of everything we do. Our product is essentially our claims service, and we are very proud to say we have settled 99.25% of claims reported.

BVLOS is a big up-and-coming area, as is drone shows and drone swarms, especially in Europe. Our policies always react to the changes in the drone market, and we can now provide that cover.”

– Daniel Dodd, Coverdrone

Flock

“When Flock started in 2016, it was mainly film and photography, with a bit of surveying. Now, we’re seeing everything from crop spraying in Ethiopia, to flying cars and monitoring sulphur emissions in shipping lanes.

We provide insurance to a company called Lorenz Technology in Denmark, which from our understanding, is the first case where an AI (Artificial Intelligence) is listed as a pilot on an insurance policy. There’s a lot of other companies using AIs for assisted flight, this is just the next level of that.”

– Sam Golden, Flock

Moonrock

“Moonrock insure pilots and organisations ranging from the independent operator all the way through to BVLOS operations, such as the recent NHS trials and large drone displays with over 300 drone in the air at any one time.

We are now starting to see a large shift towards in-house operations, whereby businesses are starting to bring pilots in house. This allows organisations to train pilots specifically in the needs and requirements of the organisation.

We have also launched a hobby drone insurance policy, as up until now its been nearly impossible for the general public to obtain cover for public liability and damage to the drone.”

– Simon Ritterband, Managing Director, Moonrock Drone Insurance

Want to learn more about drone legislation?

Check out the links below:

CAA Drone Code
https://register-drones.caa.co.uk/drone-code

CAA – Aircraft Insurance
https://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Aircraft/Operations/Insurance/Aircraft-insurance/

CAP722 – Unmanned Aircraft System Operations in UK Airspace – Guidance
https://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/CAP722%20Edition8(p).pdf

REGULATION (EC) No 785/2004 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 21 April 2004 on insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=celex:32004R0785

 

DronePrep attends DroneX Trade Show

After the lockdowns and limitations of the last two years, the DronePrep team were excited to finally see friends from across the industry – in person! – at the DroneX Trade Show and Conference, held last week at the ExCel centre in London.

DronePrep’s Gareth Whatmore joined Aerospace Cornwall to share the successes of the Future Flight Phase II drone delivery project in the Isles of Scilly, a major step forward for UK drone delivery and a great example of the region’s investment in technology and innovation.

The two-day show also saw DronePrep Co-founder and CTO Claire Owen serve on the judging panel for the DroneX Innovation Awards. The panel visited a number of innovative DroneX exhibitors and, after a 3-minute pitch from each candidate and a long deliberation, Airial Robotics was crowned the winner for their Gyrotrak.

The DroneX Trade Show was an excellent opportunity to find out about companies from all areas of drone use, from drone manufacturers, to software providers, to end-users looking to deploy drones in their day-to-day operations.

“It was great to finally meet the amazing people in drones who I’ve had the pleasure of zoom-ing and emailing these last few months! I joined DronePrep before the UK lockdown was over, so it’s really the first opportunity I’ve had to see people face to face. We were thrilled to see the industry come together and exhibit all the latest innovations in UAVs.

 

– Beth Mason, Marketing Manager, DronePrep

Zero to 400: A Beginner’s Guide to Drones, Part 3 – Understanding Drone Qualifications

Zero to 400

Zero to 400 is a record of my journey from casual observer to (hopefully) confident drone pilot. This isn’t a guide to legislation, and I’m certainly no expert on the ever-changing world of unmanned aviation. I hope these posts can serve as a casual guide to the novice pilot and answer the basic questions from anyone interested in drones.

So I’ve read the Drone Code, got my Flyer ID and done a bit of flying. What’s next?

I would love to dive into a post about getting the hang of controls, or taking great pictures, but before we start that, I’d like to talk about the other qualifications available to both hobbyists and commercial pilots.

Before we look at the certificates themselves, let’s understand why we might need them.

Flight Categories

The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), who regulate drone use in the UK, have decided to distinguish between different types of drone flight by splitting them into three different categories of flight. These are based on the level of risk in the flight, so they consider factors like proximity to other people, weight of your drone, etc.

These three categories are called Open, Specific and Certified.

The Open Category is for low-risk flights and does not require any special approval from the CAA.

The Specific Category is for higher risk flights and requires operational authorisation from the CAA.

The Certified Category is for even higher risk flights, with larger aircraft and a similar level of regulation and authorisation to manned flights.

I’m going to wager that the majority of drone flights carried out in the UK fall under the Open Category. The Open Category is divided into three different subcategories – A1, A2 and A3. I’ll try to keep this brief:

A1 – “Fly over people” – very lightweight drones, very low risk.

A2 – “Fly close to people” – lightweight drones, a little more risk.

A3 – “Fly far from people” – heavier drones, but further away.

You can fly most drones in the A1 and A3 categories without the need for extra training – you just need to get your Flyer ID and read your drone’s user manual. The logic here being that A1 is only for very small or toy drones, and A3 is away from the risky spots. There’s a great table here from the CAA that breaks down the different drones and types of flight.

CAA Open Category

Jump to the last column and you’ll see that for anything in the A2 category, and for one class of drone in the A1 category, you will also need something called an A2 CofC Theoretical Test.

 

The A2 CofC 

The A2 CofC (Certificate of Competency) is a training course and qualification. It consists of four modules and covers the basics of meteorology, the principles of flight and best practice for safety and risk management. Both the course and theory exam can be completed online, with the qualification lasting for 5 years before renewal.

The A2 CofC is popular for pilots who are flying small drones in relatively low-risk areas. It’s quick and cheap to complete – the test takes 75 minutes, costs less than £100 and you can find cheap training courses online. Or you could just self-study and take the exam straight away. Once completed, you are pretty much covered for flying in the Open Category.

If you want to move on to the Specific category, you’re going to need a bit more training.

 

The GVC

In order to get “operational authorisation” (permission from the CAA) for Specific category flights, you need to have completed another certificate called the GVC.

The GVC (General Visual Line of Site Certificate) is the next level up in drone qualifications. There’s a theory exam and practical test, plus the requirement to create an operations manual and follow the procedures.

The GVC is aimed at commercial pilots flying heavier drones in more high-risk or complex environments. It’s slightly more expensive and time-consuming, but it’s a must-have for pilots looking to fly outside of the limits of the Open category.

Important! This is all really, really new

Something I quickly realised when I started reading about drones is that the UK legislation all changed fairly drastically on 31st December 2020. So from 1st January 2021, there were big changes to the rules and the whole industry is still in a transitional phase as these changes are put into practice. The drone classes (C0, C1, etc.) in the table above aren’t even being used properly yet, as far as I’m aware the manufacturers haven’t yet produced any drones with these marks.

Prior to regulation D-day, something called the PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operation) was the go-to training option for pilots. The CAA used to separate recreational and commercial work in its regulations. Commercial pilots were required to have completed the PfCO in order to fly for work. The CAA no longer distinguishes between recreational and commercial flying when considering pilot training, so in theory you could fly commercially with some drones in the Open Category using just a Flyer ID. One area where there is still a distinction is in insurance – pilots flying commercially must have third party liability insurance for their flights.

If you completed a PfCO before the changes, it will still be valid – so long as you don’t let it lapse. For any new pilots, following the Flyer ID the big options for further training are now the A2 CofC and the GVC.

What else do I need to know?

There’s a lot more to learn about UK drone legislation and how the categories work.

Click here for the CAA’s guide to flying in the Open Category.

Map Desktop VersionLandowner Permission

And don’t forget, even with your qualifications, you will still need to get Landowner permission to take off and land when flying a drone in the UK.

Check out the DronePrep Map, our free platform for pilots looking for places to fly. We’ve pulled together all the data you need as a pilot; FRZs, Power Lines, Foreshore, Railways and much more. You can plan your flights on our map, then check for drone access policies and get the contact details for Landowners. 

What’s on the DronePrep Map?

It’s holiday season, so with many of our friends and colleagues away, we decided to skip Spotlight On for this month and instead talk datasets with Claire Owen, co-founder of DronePrep. With a background in property and land data, Claire has a wealth of experience in data aggregation, and her passion for software has been the driving force behind the DronePrep Map.

What can I see on the map?

The map has a number of different layers with so much you can use to plans drone flights. There’s data from HM Land Registry, Ordnance Survey, Esri, what3words, NATS, and custom DronePrep data layers too… There are a few standard things that you see on most drone maps – FRZs etc – but the exciting stuff for us is the land ownership data, local authorities, bylaws, and the ability to plan future flights with the drawing tools.

DronePrep Map Land Ownership

and How did you choose what to include?

Gareth really did a lot of the groundwork on this: he was trying to map out the canal network by drone, and he couldn’t find landowner information to ask for permission to take off and land. This frustration is what triggered the idea behind the DronePrep Map many years ago.

We spent a lot of time thinking about what data to use and talking to drone pilots, as we wanted to design a platform that would be helpful for all our users. I have a very strong rule – always ask yourself “Why?” – if there’s a dataset you want to include, there’d better be a good reason for it.

Map Desktop VersionWho builds the software?

We have an external development team, Borwell, who are actually our neighbours here at Malvern Hills Science park, and they are brilliant. We work regularly with one awesome developer, Bob, and there’s a much wider team who join for the big updates. They have a number of experts in cyber security, so we know everything we’re doing is safe and secure.

How does the DronePrep Map differ from its competitors?

There are a few great drone maps out there, but we haven’t seen any with the variety of data that we offer. Especially the landowner stuff – we spent a lot of time pulling in data with the names, addresses, title numbers and such. It costs us a lot and there’s a huge amount of work behind the scenes to make it usable. Also, there’s cool features like the daylight tool, which shows where sunlight falls on the map at any given date in the year – that’s really useful, especially for photographers and videographers.

Map Drawing ToolWhat am I getting with the paid version?

You’re getting all of the landowner data – title number, owner name, contact details. If you’re planning to fly in a new spot but you don’t know who owns the land, this is gold. You also get the ability to draw, measure and save flight plans on your account. The measurements are great for helping you comply with the Drone Code, as you can check distances from built up areas and other potential hazards.

Why do you have to charge?

We don’t charge our users for the stuff we get for free, but some of the best data we have is paid for. We decided early on to prioritise accuracy over cost and we chose trusted, paid for options over unvalidated free versions, so we know the data we have from HM Land Registry and Ordnance Survey is consistent, definitive and authoritative, ie. – it’s correct.

Don’t forget the Microsoft cloud infrastructure: and we’ve got over 100 million rows in our database. There’s a lot of data, it’s a lot of storage, a lot of processing!

I think more importantly to note: we don’t have any advertisements and we don’t sell user data. We only ask for an email address and password. The only way we use this data is to allow users to access the platform, and to add emails to our mailing list. The data doesn’t go anywhere else.

Map Daylight ToolI don’t fly every day – should I upgrade to a paid subscription?

We’ve built the subscription model to be really flexible, so you can upgrade or downgrade at any time. If you’re not flying all year round, there’s nothing to stop you upgrading to plan some flights, get landowner permission, try out all the tools, then downgrade until you need it again.

What’s up next?

We’re about to do a huge update to the landowner portal to make it more intuitive for landowners to add policy information, so expect to see a lot more land opening up for drone use. We’ll also be doing some user feedback sessions again, hearing from the community what’s useful and what’s not. And next year we’ll be launching a mobile application for the map.

Did you say, “Mobile app next year”?

At some point next year, definitely, yes. Just don’t ask me which quarter yet!

Zero to 400: A Beginner’s Guide to Drones, Part 2 – Getting a Flyer ID

Zero to 400

Zero to 400 is a record of my journey from casual observer to (hopefully) confident drone pilot. This isn’t a detailed guide to drone legislation, and I’m certainly no expert on the ever-changing world of unmanned aviation. I hope these posts can serve as a casual guide to the novice pilot and answer the basic questions from anyone interested in drones.

Step 2 – Getting my Flyer ID

Let’s start with a caveat: I’m not planning to buy a drone right now. I just packed up my life abroad, moved 5,000 miles during a pandemic and bought a car, all in less than two weeks. Any further big decisions are postponed until the dust has settled on the current ones.

Fortunately, my lovely colleagues and friends around the industry have plenty of drones to play around with, so I just need to get myself a Flyer ID – the driving license of droning.

 

Preparing for the Test

The CAA’s website tells me that in order to get my Flyer ID, I’ll need to pass a 40-question multiple choice test. The test has a pass mark of 30 (75%) and should take around 30 minutes to complete. I can retake the test as many times as I like, so there’s not much pressure there.

Before beginning, I take a quick look back at the Drone Code to see what I can remember from the first read-through.

I enter and verify an email address, and am asked whether I need to register for an Operator ID also – not today!

 

Taking the Test

The test itself is very much like the Drone Code – a lot of common sense and some pretty straight-forward answers.

There are a few questions designed to make you think twice – especially those that refer to scenarios with several different drones of different classes. Some of the questions end up reading like a school math test (“John has a 2kg drone, and Sarah has a 5kg drone, they are flying within 200m of a built-up area…”). I noticed for a few of these questions the figures are relevant, but for some the figures are just designed to throw your off (e.g. all of the pilots are flying legally/illegally).

Some of the questions encourage you to consider the reasons behind an answer (No, because… Yes, because…) and you’ll need to get that part correct too. Imagine I ask you something like: “Should I fly my drone within 20m of a school playground?” and you are offered the answers: “No, because the kids might steal your drone” vs. “No, because flying within 150m of a built-up area is not permitted” – you get the idea.

It takes less than 10 minutes to complete and – would you look at that – a perfect score of 40/40!

 

Receiving the Flyer ID

I’m asked to enter in some further details – name, address, phone number (optional) and my Flyer ID is generated immediately and emailed to me.

It’s noted both on the ID and within the confirmation email that I can fly under the A1 and A3 subcategory – that’s the “basic, low-risk flying” for those of you who haven’t studied the Drone Code yet.

My colleague tells me that if I want to fly in higher-risk categories, I’ll need to complete further training – I guess that’s next on the list!