Insurers shy away from drones over new privacy law concerns

Insurers shy away from drones over new privacy law concerns | Insurance Business

Insurers shy away from drones over new privacy law concerns
As new privacy laws governing the use of commercial drones begin to take effect, independent insurance agents are finding difficulty adequately sourcing the risk of privacy-related litigation against drone users.

According to Jason Riley, vice president of aviation wholesale broker Halton Hall, many insurers are willing to offer aircraft liability policies or aviation CGLs for drones. Components coverage, though expensive, is also available for cameras, gimbles and other accessories.

What’s harder to find is coverage for potential privacy violations.

Most companies currently offering insurance policies for commercial drone use exclude privacy claims due to lack of data, uncertainty over how drones work and how legislation protecting privacy from drone surveillance will behave toward violators. That’s a problem, given that many such laws are beginning to take effect.

In Florida, the newly minted Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act went into effect July 1. The law prohibits a person, state agency or political subdivision from using a drone to capture the image of a privately owned property or anyone on the property with the intent to conduct surveillance. Those that wish to use drone technology in this manner must have written consent from people on the property.

And while FUSA allows exceptions for drone use by a business licensed by the state, it does not apply to professions that regularly obtain information about a person’s identity, whereabouts, habits or associations. Those who feel their privacy has been violated under these terms may sue for civil damages and injunctive relief.

Many of those lawsuits may turn out to be frivolous, but the money expended to defend a company against such claims will be very real.

“Certainly, commercial operators in particular need to be aware of potential exposures past the obvious bodily injury, advertising/personal injury liability and contractual liability,” Riley said.

With the Federal Aviation Administration issuing an average of 250 permits a month for commercial drone experiments, these are question that needs to be answered quickly.

Those monitoring insurer appetites, however, suggest that carriers will not begin to embrace privacy concerns as part of drone liability policies until state and federal legislation becomes clearer on expectations and legality surrounding drones.

“I’m constantly following up with my standard carriers to see if their appetite for drones has changed,” said Evan Garmon, a commercial insurance specialist with Harpenau Insurance in Louisville, Kentucky. “Until the regulation and laws in the United States surrounding the small unmanned aircraft systems industry stabilize, many standard insurance companies will stay out of the market.

“Once they do, I plan to be on top of the change to offer better policies for my clients.”