If you had a drone under the Christmas tree, you were not alone, as these unmanned aircraft are a popular gift. But if you have been winging around without a care in the world, then we need to bring you down to Earth. There is one hard and fast fact that you need to be aware of; drones are considered to be small unmanned aircraft by the FAA which regulates them and licenses pilots to fly them. Yes, even hobbyists need to be licensed in order to fly a drone. If you are flying your drone without being licensed you are in violation of federal law – and that could put a hole big enough for C-5 cargo plane in your homeowner’s insurance.

Rules and Regs

 You can’t just pop your new drone out of the box, charge it up and fly around at will. For instance, a number of drone pilots have been harassing endangered northern right whales off the coast Florida, the feds have issued a new regulation barring this practice. Your drone must be registered with the FAA, in addition to being properly labeled before it takes to the air. Hobbyist drone pilots must be a minimum of 13 years of age, and a US citizen or permanent resident. Anyone flying a privately owned drone that is not for commercial use must also obey the following rules:

Drone flights must not exceed 400 feet in altitude.

The drone must be kept within site at all times.

Drones must not be in restricted airspace such as airports or military bases.

Drones must not overfly groups of people, or be flown into stadiums or sporting events.

Drones may not be used to harass federally protected wildlife.

Drones must not be used to fly near emergency responders such as fire, police, or EMTs.

Drones must not be operated when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Drones may not be flown near other aircraft, or in their flightpath.

Drones must not be used to harass or invade the privacy of other people.

So, as you can see flying a drone is not just a matter of unboxing it and taking off. It has the potential to impact your insurance.

There is a Policy for That

It doesn’t matter if you are just hobbyist, or you bought it for your kids. Drones are regulated devices, and have special insurance needs. Adding a drone policy to your insurance package is not as difficult as it used to be, more policies from more carriers are available. However, it is a specialty policy just like insuring an aircraft, a car, or a boat – with qualifications that need to be met before that policy can be issued. In operating an unlicensed drone, or allowing an unlicensed pilot to operate a drone, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a visit from federal agents, and a subsequent fine, or lawsuits from your neighbors. Straighten up and fly right, and find out what you need to do to get covered from your E&L insurance agent.