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Aviation insurer offers ground rules for drones

Posted On: Nov. 10, 2015 12:00 AM CST

Hundreds of thousands of drones are expected to be on Christmas lists this year, and the Federal Aviation Administration is scrambling to keep the skies safe from the growing number of near-miss incidents with aircraft.

Pilot reports of unmanned aircraft have increased dramatically over the past year, from a total of 238 sightings in all of 2014, to more than 650 by August 9 of this year, according to the FAA.

With FAA regulatory proposals due out Nov. 20, 2015 it's expected that, drone operators — commercial and personal — will be required to use serialization, meaning a drone will have a serial number carved in it and that number will be registered to the drone owner/operator to track their drones by year-end.

Besides the more obvious tips such as following regulations and avoiding indoor use, Aviation insurer Global Aerospace Inc. has come up with recommendations for companies interested in using drones and considering a third-party service to operate them.

• Choose the best system for the job. Define your mission for using drone to narrow the search from among an estimated 800 small drone manufacturers in the world. That includes determining whether the operator will supply raw or processed data.

• Choose a safe operating system. Legislation does not differentiate between a drone operating with a 3-pound foam wing and a 25-pound unit. The latter is going to need a more active risk mitigation plan because of the dangers from the higher weight.

• Maintain a safe distance. Although the FAA requires flights to be at least 500 feet from all people, drones need to be closer than that for many purposes. If that's the case brief everyone in that area about the operation.

• Have a qualified drone pilot with the necessary training and certification for the job and one who meets all of the insurer's requirements.

• Manage risk. Geofencing technology, which sets virtual boundaries around actual places and prevents the drone from wandering where it should not be.

• Require routine drone maintenance from third-party operators.

• Require insurance. The drone operator should have liability limits of $1 million to $5 million per occurrence.

• Carry non-owned insurance. This provides coverage for any third-party damage caused by the drone operator.