Two insurance industry trade associations expressed support for proposed regulations governing commercial drone use, calling them a good first step. Worries remain, however, about how the regulations would spur drone users to seek adequate insurance coverage to manage risk and maximize safety.
The property/casualty insurance industry is watching the regulatory process for commercial drones very closely. Carriers have a stake because they are developing coverage plans for emerging drone uses. There is also interest on the industry side in using drones to help enhance the underwriting process.
Jimi Grande, senior vice president of federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, said, “While the proposed FAA rules would begin to reduce the more significant barriers for drone insurance at the federal level, NAMIC remains concerned about the developing regulatory, commercial, and practical consideration of providing the greatest level of protection for policyholders, including the use of drones in policyholder servicing,”
In prepared remarks, Grande added that NAMIC would work with members and federal, state and local regulators to promote responsible development of commercial drone use “that protects aircraft, people, business and property” and is “appropriate to address the risk and liabilities of commercial drone use in a given area.”
With all of that said, Grande called the proposed FAA rules “a well-reasoned and productive first step toward commercial [drone] use” that “would reduce the potential for undue hazard.”
Grande also said the FAA “wisely” chose not to mandate insurance coverage for drone operators and clients.
Chris Hackett, director, personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, told Carrier Management via email statement that PCI “is encouraged” by the FAA’s proposed rules, and noted the commercial drone use could be a compelling underwriting tool.
“There is great potential for drones to enhance an insurer’s ability to underwrite, inspect roofs and survey damage after a natural disaster,” Hacket said. “We hope that the final rules will allow for the flexibility of insurers to incorporate the use of drones into their daily operations.”
The proposed FAA roles, issued Feb. 15, are designed to enable business, academic and research and development flights under a revised regulatory framework. Among the draft guidelines: a limit of drone flights to daylight hours and visual-line-of-sight operations. FAA officials also outline height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marketing, and operational limits
Drones under 55 pounds would be covered by the new rules, and the FAA would also explore additional, more flexible guidelines for micro drones under 4.4 pounds.
FAA officials are seeking public comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register. The draft regulations can be found here.
Sources: PCI, NAMIC, FAA