Drone Insurance: Do You Need It, Even If You Don’t Think You’d Crash Your Drone?

Drone insurance covers the drone and your liability in case a crash hurts someone or damages property.
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Written by Barbara Marquand
Senior Writer
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Edited by Amy Danise
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Drone sales are taking off, and you don't have to shop around much to see why: They're really cool. You can buy recreational drones that perform aerial rolls and flips, record stunning video, follow you automatically and use sensors to avoid obstacles in flight. These days, there are tons of high-quality camera drones that cost less than $500.

There’s even a drone you can build yourself out of Lego bricks. And yes, it actually flies.

According to Federal Aviation Administration data released in December 2023, the number of registered drones alone is nearly 800,000. And since only drones weighing 250 grams or more legally need to be registered, that figure overlooks the number of unregistered drones as well as the myriad toy drones you can buy for far less money that come under the 250 gram threshold.

But with high-flying enthusiasm comes down-to-earth reality: Accidents can happen, making insurance a must. Sure, drones these days are safer than ever. New tech like obstacle avoidance can help prevent drones from crashing. Then again, making a huge investment in a drone means you may want insurance.

Depending on the policy, insurance can cover the drone itself. But the bigger risk is your liability in case the drone crashes into a person, causing injuries, or into somebody's house or car, causing damage. Another risk: Someone suspects you're spying (even though you're not) and sues you for invasion of privacy.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not currently require drone insurance for neither recreational nor commercial drone use. That said, a drone business owner might still want drone insurance to protect their business from liability. And even a hobby drone pilot might want what's called "hull" coverage to protect their actual drone from damage.

Types of drone insurance

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Look to your credit card's purchase protection

If you're simply concerned about insurance to replace a potentially-broken drone, consider this: Several credit cards offer purchase protection, which acts as insurance against an item being stolen or damaged for a certain period of time after you buy it. It's sometimes also referred to as damage protection.

If your credit card offers it, you may have coverage for items — including drones — that were paid for on that card. And if you buy a drone that crashes and breaks, you might be able to get all, or some of your money back.

There are all sorts of stipulations, including that the items had to have been damaged within a certain period of time. You might also only be reimbursed for a portion of the initial cost. And sometimes, there are exclusions as to what's covered. Terms vary by exact credit card policy, but you might not find yourself covered for situations like water damage — should you accidentally your drone into a lake.

Check renters or homeowners insurance

Standard renters and homeowners insurance policies likely cover recreational drones, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. If you have such a policy, the liability insurance would apply to everyone in the household, including any teenage drone enthusiasts.

But it’s important to check with your insurer about coverage for your drone because interpreting a policy can be tricky. Some policies, for example, have an aviation exclusion, which means they don’t cover aircraft, but some do cover model aircraft, says aviation attorney Ryan Hilton of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig in Tampa, Florida. Is a drone a model aircraft? That’s a question to ask your insurer.

If you end up in a legal dispute with your insurance company over a drone claim, most courts will say a drone is a model aircraft, even if the insurer doesn’t agree, adds attorney James Michael Shaw Jr., also of Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig. “But it’s risky to count on the courts to agree with your interpretation if it’s different than the insurance company.”

Drone insurance under your homeowners or renters policy

If your homeowners or renters insurance policy does cover recreational drones, it likely would reimburse you if the drone is stolen, or if it’s damaged by a disaster covered in the policy, such as a fire.

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The deductible — the amount subtracted from a claim check — would apply. There might also be a dollar limit on coverage. Ask your insurance company if you can buy more coverage if your drone is worth more than the limit. A renters or homeowners policy will not cover your drone if it crashes or you lose it.

That said, will these policies pay medical expenses if the drone injures someone?

Alas, the policy would not cover injuries to family members or pets. The expenses it pays would be limited to the amount of no-fault medical coverage in the policy. If those expenses exceeded the limit and you were sued, then your liability insurance would kick in.

And what about paying legal expenses and court awards if you’re sued for injuries or property damage the drone causes?

You’re on the hook for any damages above the policy’s liability limit. Home or renters insurance will not cover damage by your drone to your own home or car. But your car insurance would cover vehicle damage if you purchased comprehensive insurance, an option that covers damage from falling objects and other disasters.

What renters or home insurance doesn’t cover

Your renters or homeowners insurance won’t cover you if your drone is used for the following reasons:

  • For business purposes. A renters or home insurance policy doesn’t cover business use. Even a simple transaction — say a friend pays you 20 bucks to take photos of his backyard — would count as business use, Hilton says.

  • To spy on somebody, Hilton says. For example: You hover the drone outside a neighbor’s window, take photos and then are sued for invasion of privacy. Insurance policies won’t cover intentional acts.

A homeowners insurance policy might cover you if you inadvertently take photos of someone else and are sued, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Is renters or home insurance enough?

You’re probably OK relying on a renters or homeowners policy if you fly your drone infrequently, only for fun, and only in areas where it’s not likely to break anything or hurt or bother anybody, Shaw says.

“But, if you’re flying for commercial purposes, or flying often, or flying in an area where there is property to damage or people who could get injured or who could sue you for violating their privacy, you probably don’t want to rely exclusively on your homeowners policy,” he says. “You’re far better off with a policy specifically designed to cover drones.”

No insurance policy, though, will cover you for deliberate acts, such as trying to hurt someone or spy on others.

Where else to find drone insurance

Look for coverage elsewhere if you don't have home or renters insurance, or if you want more protection than a home or renters insurance policy provides.

For example, you might want liability insurance to protect people in case a drone crash injures someone.

Club memberships

One way to get drone insurance is to join a remote-controlled aircraft club that offers insurance. Annual membership in the Academy of Model Aeronautics comes with:

  • $2.5 million of personal liability coverage.

  • $25,000 in medical coverage if you’re injured.

  • $10,000 in accidental death coverage if you die or are dismembered while flying a model aircraft.

  • $1,000 to cover the drone if it’s damaged by fire or vandalism or is stolen.

The club’s insurance kicks in after any other coverage you have, such as home insurance, pays out. Annual academy membership is $75 for adults up to age 65 and $65 for those 65 years and older. By joining the academy, you can meet other members in your area. Many local clubs maintain flying sites and sponsor events.

On-demand drone insurances

Verifly is a new company that sells drone insurance through an app. With traditional insurance, you buy a policy to cover you for months or a year at a time. With Verifly’s on-demand insurance, you buy coverage only when you need it. Starting at $10 an hour, the policy provides $1 million of liability insurance if the drone damages property or injures someone, and $10,000 if you’re sued for invasion of privacy. It does not cover damage to the drone itself.

“The coverage is hourly rather than yearly because that’s how these things are used,” says CEO Jay Bregman. He started the company after becoming a semi-professional drone operator and finding a lack of affordable drone insurance options that didn’t have exclusions for coverage.

To buy coverage, you download the app and select a flight area. The hourly price is based on the location and current conditions, such as wind speed. Verifly plans to offer coverage nationwide; now it’s available in the U.S. except in the District of Columbia, Illinois and New York.

Tips for drone operation

Along with getting drone insurance, follow the law and safety guidelines:

  • Register your drone. You must register with the Federal Aviation Administration if the drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds. If it weighs more than 55 pounds, you’ll need to fill out a paper registration; otherwise you can do it online.

  • Follow safety rules. Keep the drone in your line of sight and within 400 feet of the ground. If you plan to fly within 5 miles of an airport, federal law says you must first contact airport management and the traffic control tower. You can learn more from Know Before You Fly.

  • Know whether you need a license: If you're flying a drone for recreational purposes (like simply taking photos for your social media), then you generally don't need a license. But if you fly drones for any sort of money, then you're considered a commercial pilot. In that case, you must hold a Remote Pilot Certificate. You can get that by taking and passing the Part 107 test, which is formally called the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test.

  • Avoid flying over private property or crowds without permission. Let neighbors know if you plan to fly nearby. “When they can’t tell who’s operating the drone, most people will assume someone is spying on them,” Shaw says.

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