All eyes on drones

Did you know that drones are becoming so popular that a US finding of more than one million out-of-the-box drones will be Christmas presents in America this year?  Most will be toys, but many will be corporate gifts.  Watch this space in Australia!

It’s been said that drones will play an important role in business relationships in the near future.  We’re not referring to the weapons-equipped big drones used as instruments of military policy, enabling strikes against enemy forces, without putting flight personnel at risk of moral or physical harm.  We are referring to much smaller drones that have invaded the business sector.  Their use varies from tiny operations with a solitary drone, to large-scale fleets and there are plenty more to come!

Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley is one user who worries about this proliferation of small, unlicensed aircraft.  He told Aviation Week that small UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are “a very serious issue and there’s considerable concern that it’s going to end in tears.  It’s not just in and around airports where drones present a danger to the travelling public.  There are many areas outside of five miles of an airport where a drone conflict could occur”. A mistake with a drone, or an intentionally misused drone, can have disastrous results.

Regulations in Australia

Mark is one of many who see drone use as accidents waiting to happen.  However, regulations in Australia are tougher than those in the US.  Drones must be controlled by licensed pilots, except for sport or hobby use.  Anyone intending to use drones for commercial purposes must be licensed, generally after completing a course, typically over five days, which teaches students how to control a drone as well as applicable regulations.  The cost is around AU$3,000.

After would-be drone users complete courses, drone schools and paperwork are sent to Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), which issues pilot certificates.  Commercial users of drones must also file a flight plan with, and have it accepted by, CASA before taking flight. Hobby users do not need approval from CASA for flights, but must obey the same rules as commercial users (keep the drone 30 metres away from people; stay under 120 metres high; do not operate above gatherings of people; keep your drone within sight; do not operate within five kilometres of an airport).

One drone pilot training school is RPAS Training and Solutions, a business that conducts courses around the country. Chief pilot Matthew Barrett, an engineer, says it costs businesses about AU$5,000, including the cost of the drone and course fees, to become airborne.  He foresees greatest drone usage in photography, cinematography, real estate, mining, various types of surveying, law enforcement (monitoring premises), courier deliveries and even deliveries of pizzas and other takeaway meals.

Insurance and Drones

Among drone users is Professor Allan Manning, Director of Melbourne-based LMI Group, a company specialising in loss and risk management. As Allan explains: “In loss management we assist all sorts of companies in making insurance claims.  In risk management we advise them on how to avoid events that could see them making claims.” This all relates very comfortably to drone use.

Insurance is available, he notes, both for drone damage and liability for unintended events. “I suggest people speak to insurance brokers” he advises.

Drones are poised to play a greater role in our lives. Their convenience and capabilities will be demanded.  It’s a trend businesses – including insurers – ignore at their peril.

Source: ANZIIF: All Eyes on Drones