|Home insurers rush to exclude drones as Christmas sees popularity soar|
Canny underwriters have forseen the risk of drones falling into the hands of 'amateurs, fools and children'
A host of specialist insurance providers are rushing to cash in on the trend Photo: Rex ______________________________________________
By Camilla Turner
9:54AM GMT 25 Dec 2015
Home insurers are rushing to exclude drones from their policies as experts warn that even those who buy them as gifts for others could be liable for privacy and personal injury claims.
Provisions to exclude “aircrafts” and “remote controlled vehicles” have been hastily added to policies, as underwriters refuse to risk footing the bill of potentially huge legal bills arising from the gadgets.
Originally designed for military use, the increasingly affordable unmanned aircrafts have soared in popularity among amateurs, and are expected to be bought in record numbers this Christmas.
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“All insurance companies can see a risk, even with the toy drones,” said Frank Cannon, an expert in aviation law.
"There are specific exclusions that have emerged in the last couple of years to prohibit cover for drones.
“With drones being so prolific, and in the hands of so many amateurs, potential fools and children, a lot of insurance companies will have decided to simply exclude them while they see the risk developing.”
According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) guidelines, drones must never be flown out of eyesight of the person operating it.
An exhibitor presents the AR Drone, a remote-controlled quadrotor helicopter with buit in camera and WiFi and controlled by iPhone or iPod Touch Photo: AFP/GETTY
They must be flown at least 50m away from a person, vehicle or building, and they must not be flown within 150m of a large group of people, such as a football match or concert.
However, a simple malfunction, poor flight control or a flat battery could turn someone’s well-intentioned Christmas present into an airborne weapon and unwanted intruder on private property.
“Even one of these tiny toy drones could cause a serious accident,” Mr Cannon said.
“You could have one flying into a pram and injuring a baby, or breaking a window or car windscreen. There are lots of nasty things that could happen.”
If a child is at the helm, then the adult who bought it for them would be liable for any damage caused so long as the damage was foreseeable, Mr Cannon said.
Anders Nilsson, a spokesman for GoCompare.com, a financial services comparison website, said insurers are also using existing provisions to exclude drones.
“Some policies explicitly state that they don’t cover motorised vehicles, aircraft or drones,” he said.
“Others say they won’t cover remote controlled vehicles, which includes flying ones.
“If it’s an expensive drone, say £1,000 or more, it will probably need to be added as a ‘specified item’ to your contents policy to avoid any single item limits that may apply.”
Amlin's policy specifically excludes “aircraft” both from the contents and legal liability policies.
Simon Goddard, senior underwriter at Amlin, said: "As such, we would not consider any loss or damage to the drone itself, nor any third party bodily injury or property damage under our policies."
Churchill home insurance only offer cover for drones under the contents policy, meaning they would pay for a replacement if it was stolen from your homes but there is no cover for the use of a drone outside the home.
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Marko Ninkovic, head of aviation claims at Brit Insurance, said the safest option for new drone owners would be to join a local flying or model aircraft club in order to learn about the regulations.
“Customers should be mindful that there is more possibility for a drone than an ordinary toy to cause damage if not used correctly,” he said.
While traditional home insurance policies are retreating from drone cover, a host of specialist insurance providers are rushing to cash in on the trend.
However, Aviva, the largest insurer provider in the UK, bucks the trend by classing drones as "toys" and including them in their cover.
"Accidental damage to third-party property or injury to another person caused by recreational use of a drone - not those used for business or professional purposes - would be covered," said Jonathan Cracknell, household underwriter at Aviva.
"However, it must be operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines and in adherence to the law and certainly shouldn’t be flown anywhere near airports.”
Oliver Meakin, chief executive officer at Maplin, one of the UK’s biggest manufacturers of drones, said the company is expecting sales of up to 20,000 units, a 100 per cent increase in year on year sales.
Of the 30 varieties of drones they have on sale, the Glimpse XL drone for £349.99 and the Phantom 3 Professional for £1179.99 have been the most popular this year.
A CAA spokesperson said: "Anyone operating a drone must do so responsibly and observe all relevant rules and regulations.
"The rules for flying drones are designed to keep all air users safe and anyone flouting these rules can face severe penalties including imprisonment.”