So you’re set for a recreational flight. Something goes wrong, and a bystander gets clipped with a prop. Before you know it, there’s a lawsuit and they’re seeking damages of $750,000. This could, unless you’ve literally got money to burn, wipe you out. But there’s a better way: insurance.
Most professional operations (and all truly professional operations) fly with insurance. Even if the likelihood of an incident is slim, it’s better to be prepared. And the best way to be prepared is to have a policy that will protect you if something goes wrong. So why don’t more recreational pilots have this?
Well, we could say overconfidence – and that’s easy to understand, given that many products these days are incredibly stable in the sky. But one of the other factors is cost. Buying an annual drone insurance policy that covers you for liability and hull insurance isn’t cheap. One of my policies (covering an Inspire 2) was in the neighborhood of CAD $1,000.
I didn’t end up needing it, but it was very reassuring to know it was there. I knew my back was covered.
A simpler option
So what’s a weekend warrior who makes the occasional flight to do? Well, we’d recommend checking out some of the apps out there that offer micro-insurance. By that, we mean insurance that you pay based on where you’re flying and for how long. That way, you’re paying small amounts for the flights you take – rather than a big chunk of dough for the year (although, depending on whether you’re a frequent flyer, that may well be the better option).
One of the ones we’ve used a few times when testing out drones is called SkyWatch.AI. We like it.
What we like about the SkyWatch app is that it’s so simple to use. You can plan your flight mission either on the spot or in advance, and – pending location and weather conditions (which the app understands) – flights can be as low as $5 per hour with $1 million in liability coverage. Here’s a screen grab from its website outlining key features:
You can use your location-enabled device to either start flying where you are, or pick up a policy for a different location. You simply drop a pin and define radius and height parameters, or draw a custom polygon for your flight mission.
Defining your area of operations is dead simple. Simply drop some dots to create a polygon; rearrange them until you’ve got the exact shape you want. We’ve switched here to satellite view:
The app even knows your local weather conditions:
Then it’s really up to you. How much liability coverage do you want? Are you after a one-time flight or a monthly or annual plan? Are you looking for hull coverage (the default is simply liability, which is the more important thing to have). All of this is laid out simply, and you can quickly purchase a policy for your flight.
Doing this in the field literally takes me two or three minutes, and I receive a confirmation email that I’m covered for the time period I’ve specified. There’s even SDK integration for DJI:
This is strictly an insurance app; not something that’s going to give you NOTAMs or – at least with what we’ve seen – airspace identification. There are tons of other apps for that. This gives you insurance on demand at a reasonable price.
It should be noted that there are other apps out there that do similar work, such as Verifly:
Remember the old Boy Scout motto? Be Prepared.
Anytime you take a flight, regardless of your piloting skills, there is the potential for something to go wrong. And unless you’re out in the boondocks on a huge piece of land, there’s the potential that an incident could cause injury or damage to property on the ground. If you don’t have insurance, you could really be hit hard financially.
So we encourage you, as part of safe and responsible piloting, to have valid insurance on your flights (some regulators insist on this for commercial operators, we seem to recall). But really, for the price of a fancy Starbucks concoction, you could have something in place that offers peace of mind… and protection.
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