Where Do I Stand If a Drone Damages My Property?
US law does not seem to mention any limitations regarding drones flying over private property, from what we could find anyway. It follows that a property owner may neither grant nor deny permission over aerospace, which belongs to the government, more specifically the FAA. Before we get to damage, which is the worst case scenario, we’d like to point out that a property owner can file a complaint if a drone is being flown recklessly, causing a nuisance, or violating state privacy laws. A drone operator can be sued for trespassing if the drone lands or takes off from your property without permission.
What Can I Do if a Drone Damaged my Vehicle or Home?
The drones that do most damage are quite large and can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Since both your property and the drone will sustain extensive damage due to a crash, the best you can do is inquire into the drone owner’s insurance. Recreational drone insurance is not something that occurs to most people as an option, but people looking to buy or make drones should talk to their insurance providers. Drones can not only cause material damage, but also bodily harm.
What is the Law?
The FAA (mentioned earlier) is responsible for laws that govern the use of drones. In 2016, they released an Advisory Circular with guidelines for operating drones as per the Code of Federal Regulations.
Where and When Can you Fly a Drone?
Drones should only be operated up to a maximum of 400 feet above the ground, or less than 400 feet away from any structure if operated from one. They can only be operated during daytime. You can’t operate a drone from a moving vehicle unless in a sparsely populated area. It is also against the law to operate a drone from moving aircraft. It should only be operated in conditions of visibility within 3 miles of a control station. With ATC permission, you can operate it in class B, C, D and E airspace and in class G airspace without permission from this authority. While in operation, the drone must remain in VLOS (Visual Line Of Sight).
Violation of any of these provisions is a punishable federal offense.
What do I Need to Know about Homeowners Insurance?
Usually, insurance companies will cover damage to property (like a neighbor’s home or car), but not the costs of replacing or repairing the drone. In most cases, homeowners’ insurance policies pay claims if the holder or a member of their family inflicts damage upon someone’s property with a drone. Such accidents fall within the scope of liability of a renter or homeowner’s insurance policy for property damage or bodily injury claims. For example, if your drone hits someone, your insurance company will probably cover their medical expenses.
While coverage for aircraft is expressly excluded from many home insurance policies, these normally cover radio-controlled model aircraft.
Does the Operator Have Liability Coverage?
It depends on how “liability” is defined within their insurance policy and whether the definition of “aircraft” applies to drones. All drone enthusiasts should attempt to find this out before flying. If their insurance company excludes drones and they crash into your car or home, the claim won’t be paid. You can sue for damage on general grounds, but you’ll need to know the law very well. This article provides more information about drone flying laws in the US and their purpose. If you don’t have time to get that acquainted, hire a lawyer. Or just fix your car or the broken window of your house or flat and move on.