With the holidays now in the rear view mirror, many are playing around with gifts that may pose unique perils to unsuspecting owners. Drones in particular create risks and protections that were heretofore unnecessary in the prior generation of home toys and games.
For starters, unlike most other toys, drones need to be registered. All drones, whether for personal or business use, are supposed to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration. To do this, go to their web site at FAA.gov.
According to Jim Hyatt, senior vice president of personal lines at Arbella Insurance Group in Quincy, there are three known risks in drone use and ownership: personal liability, property damage and invasion of privacy.
Your personal liability is always a big catchall. You may be liable for operating someone else’s drone, allowing someone to use yours or simply from having a drone accident. Personal liability claims can get large, so make sure that you have personal umbrella coverage in addition to your traditional home and auto coverage.
Property damage appears to be self-explanatory, but understand that you need to be accountable and may be liable for the damage that you cause to other people’s property. Invasion of privacy may be harder to prove, but your neighbors could ask quizzically about that flying object circling overhead.
Hyatt recommends taking a safety class. Learning how to operate the drone is not too difficult, but knowing the do’s and don’ts and what rules come into play should not be taken lightly.
When you fly a drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules. The FAA has launched an app for download on your mobile device. The app is called B4Ufly. Here you will see if the area in which you intend to operate your zone is permissible according to FAA rules. For example, you may not operate a drone within 5 miles of an airport without prior notification to the airport and air traffic control.
A few other precautions to take include having a conversation with your children and anyone else who may use your new flying toy. If you do not take your responsibility to make sure that the operator of the drone is aware of, and abides by the rules, you may be held personally liable.
The last step would be to talk to your insurance agent. Let them know of your new toy, that it is registered, and ask them if there is anything else that you should do. One thing to consider is to be absolutely certain that all of the underlying limits to your homeowners and auto policies are up to their maximum limits and that you’ve got catastrophic umbrella coverage for damages above and beyond that.
John P. Napolitano CFP, CPA is CEO of U.S. Wealth Management in Braintree, Mass. Visit JohnPNapolitano on LinkedIn or uswealthnapolitano.com. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. John Napolitano is a registered principal with and securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through US Financial Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. US Financial Advisors and US Wealth Management are separate entities from LPL Financial. He can be reached at 781-849-9200.