Question: We are thinking about purchasing a drone to collect data for our surveying operations. What are the issues that I need to consider?
Drones are coming to the surveying industry. They are not legally in use yet, but the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has been moving forward on granting exemptions, and there is a collective push from commercial entities to tap into the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In February, the FAA proposed safety rules for small drones used for non-recreational operations. The proposed rule would limit flights to daylight and the drone must be within visible sight of the operator. The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days.
You should be aware that the FAA currently authorizes the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for commercial or business purposes on a case-by-case basis. You may not fly your UAS for commercial purposes without the express permission of the FAA. You should check with the FAA for further determination as to what constitutes a commercial or business use of small UAS. Unless you have received express permission from the FAA, you cannot currently use drones for your surveying operations.
You should also consider potential liability implications that could arise from drone use. Since this is an emerging practice we have not yet seen cases dealing with drones, but some of the issues that are foreseeable are damage to property or a person because of the improper use of a drone, the invasion of privacy resulting from drone observation, or the many other causes of action that could result from drone use. These exposures are not professional liability exposures. The use of a drone is not a professional service, but the interpretation of the information provided by the drone is a professional service. From a risk management perspective it is important that you carefully describe the scope of services that you are providing using the information provided by a drone.
Do you have a question regarding an insurance or practice management issue? Email your question to AskVic@Schinnerer.com and look for your answer in a future issue of the NSPS News & Views weekly newsletter. Victor O. Schinnerer & Company, Inc., is the underwriting manager for the CNA professional liability program, and has a longstanding relationship with NSPS.