By Tom Boudreau
Commercial drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have quickly become a pretty common sight on many construction sites in the United States – and for good reason. The benefits they can provide are vast – ranging from monitoring projects for employee safety reasons, surveying large sites, and inspecting difficult to reach locations, to ensuring quality on projects such as bridge construction. The relative ease of operating these devices, coupled with a fairly reasonable price tag for many models, makes it all too easy to get comfortable using them – perhaps, a little too comfortable.
With New Technology Comes New Risk
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to review commercial use of UAVs and drones. Currently, any UAV or drone that is being utilized for commercial purposes requires FAA approval (section 333 exemption).1 To date, across all industries, more than 5,552 exemptions have been granted.
Thinking of Using Drones/Commercial UAVs? Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Have you applied for and received your FAA approval? You can be subject to fines without obtaining proper approval.
- Have you developed a plan on exactly how you intend to use commercial drones or UAVs, including risk management and safety procedures? Specific flight plans for usage on job sites will be an important component in improving risk management and safety.
- Have your operators passed the aeronautics test required for them to serve as a pilot?
- Are you aware of the surroundings the drone will be operating in? Currently, you cannot operate drones or UAVs over people who are not involved with your project/flight. This is especially important in cities or congested areas where your project may be immediately adjacent to property not involved with your project, such as public parks/spaces and private residences.
- Have you considered the insurance implications for using commercial UAVs or drones in your business? Although drone insurance is becoming increasingly more available, do not assume you are covered for your drone/UAV activities. In fact, many policies specifically exclude the usage of them. ISO has recently availed new endorsements that help to better clarify coverage for the use of UAVs. The Unmanned Aircraft Exclusion (CG 21 09) and the Limited Coverage for Designated Unmanned Aircraft (CG 24 50) allow the market to definitively exclude or cover drone/UAV usage for bodily injury and property damage, as well as personal and advertising injury.
- Have you considered the reputational risk your firm could face if your drone/UAV was found operating too close to others’ property, especially if you accidentally (or intentionally due to a rogue operator) film something that others did not want taped and it was released to the public?
It’s exciting to see new technology being used in the construction industry. And it’s important for many reasons: Productivity can be increased, worker safety enhanced, and the new technology will certainly help attract the next generation of construction workers, as it’s well documented that this generation is technologically savvy. Drones and UAVs can also be utilized to help improve quality and reduce liability for construction defects when used to document a project as it is being built. But as is the case with any technology, there is risk. Mitigating that risk is imperative to fully gain the advantages it can provide.
About the Author
Tom Boudreau is Vice President of Specialty Construction at The Hartford. The Hartford is a premier provider of property and casualty insurance and risk management services for midsize and large construction companies, with a focus on heavy trade contractors, commercial builders and subcontractors.
The Hartford® is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Its headquarters is in Hartford, CT.