On 30 May 2018 the Government introduced new rules regulating the use of drones. The aim of the rules, introduced as an amendment to the Air Navigation Order 2016, is to create a safer landscape for the use of drones as the sector grows. Some of the key changes include:

  • From 30 July 2018, drones will not be able to be flown within 1km of airport boundaries, or above 400ft. Drone operators who are found flying drones outside of these parameters could be charged with acting negligently or recklessly and face an unlimited fine and / or imprisonment of up to 5 years.
  • The introduction of a Drones Bill is expected this summer, which will give the police more immediate enforcement powers should they come across the improper use of drones.
  • From November 2019, drone operators with drones that weigh over 250kg will have to register with the Civil Aviation Authority, and pass a safety test in order to fly them. Failure to do so will result in criminal fines of up to £1,000.

PWC estimates that the drone industry could add £42 billion UK GDP by 2030. The increasing popularity of drones, both commercially and for entertainment, has led to the need for a clearer regulatory framework and safety measures to protect planes, helicopters, other aircraft and passengers from any potential dangers. According to the UK Government, there has been a year on year increase in the number of reported incidents involving drones, culminating in a total of 93 in 2017. Damage from foreign objects, including drones, is an issue for the aviation sector, and generates costly claims.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is an increasing market for drone related insurance. In the UK, and within Europe, any commercial drone, regardless of weight or size, must have third party liability insurance. However, the use of drones, in a variety of contexts, will bring with it a wider range of risks. It is expected that insurers themselves will seek to deploy drones for the investigation of claims and AIG in the US has already been permitted to do so. There will be the need for comprehensive, and potentially complex, drone specific policies, which provide cover for a range of first party and third party losses, such as damage to property or persons, potential data / privacy infringements, and cyber-attacks.

However, a clearer regulatory environment should help to reduce the number of incidents involving drones, and help the risks to be better understood, assessed and provided for.

More detail relating to the new legislation can be found here.