Professional Liability for Drone Operators

Unmanned aircraft, more commonly known as drones, are becoming increasingly popular in the civilian market.  Advances in technology have made drones easier to fly and have expanded their utility for recreational users.  Businesses likewise view drones as a new tool to increase their operations and bring new value to consumers.  For instance, Amazon, recently unveiled its plans to use drones to make same-day deliveries to customers. But what liability issues await?

The rise in drone use has also prompted a demand for professional drone services. One such company, enables individuals to contract for professional drone operators.  The company allows clients to book drone operators who provide specific services, such as photography and filming for private events or business applications. To the extent that this business involves consultative or advisory services, it may fall within a miscellaneous professional framework.

The FAA notes that incidents involving unauthorized and unsafe use of drones have risen dramatically, and that pilot reports of interactions with drones have tripled over the past year.  In order to address these safety concerns, the FAA proposed a new framework of regulations in 2015 that would allow routine commercial use of certain small drones, while maintaining flexibility to adapt to future changes in the technology.  These regulations currently require a certificate of exemption for drones used for business purposes. Commercial operators must be licensed pilots.

Drones, which operate via WiFi, and which may be set up to gather, store, and transmit digital data, also present a cyber exposure.

Drone rules and regulations are quickly evolving to adapt to consumer and business needs while also ensuring public safety.  Businesses providing professional drone services must stay current with these shifting regulations. In addition, drone operators must also be cognizant of other laws that may be implicated by drone use, such as privacy rights of individuals and potential liability for personal or property damage caused by negligent drone operations.  These potential hazards necessitate that operators purchase liability insurance to protect themselves from personal liability.