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Community Associations & Drone Liability: Protect Your Association from the Additional Risk of Drone Usage
Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its long-awaited rules on drone operations over people and moving vehicles and night operations. These rules represent almost two years of work in which the FAA considered tens of thousands of comments. Questions regarding safety, property damage, and privacy are forcing community associations to establish clear parameters for their use by unit owners.
As for flying legally, drones need to 1) be registered with the FAA, to the extent required, 2) be operated by an individual duly licensed by the FAA, to the extent required and 3) be flown and utilized only in accordance with the FAA and other applicable governmental requirements. In addition, the FAA now requires that drones must be properly registered and labeled with the registration number. They must only be flown below 400 feet and always within sight of the operator.
As for not disturbing the residents, drones need to 1) be flown within the community in a manner not to interfere with an owner’s reasonable expectation of privacy, 2) not utilized in any fashion to spy or otherwise peer or take pictures into the residence of another owner’s property, 3) not utilized to harass any person with respect to private property or to the Association’s common property and 4) not utilized in a manner to cause injury to person or property.
Currently, commercial use of drones (for example related to real estate agents, roofers, and disaster restoration companies, among others) requires FAA approval. It is critical to make sure that your vendors are in compliance with federal laws and guidelines.
Adoption of Rules and Regulations for drones in your community could go a long way in addressing concerns and questions. Things to consider are:
- Establishment of designated take-off/landing sites
- Restriction of hours of use, i.e. only daylight hours, etc.
- Penalties for violations of those rules and regulations
- Clarifying that the Association is not liable for any property damage caused by the drones
- Ensuring that if the user of the drone causes property damage, they are held liable.
Keep in mind, the use of drones comes with additional risk. Before implementing any drone usage, the association should consult with its insurance advisor to ensure the association is covered for hazards that can result from the use of drones. Like everything else flying around the sky, drones can crash. Imagine a drone crashing into someone’s house, or a car, or even into a person walking his or her dog. Lawsuits will inevitably follow. The association needs adequate insurance protection against potential liability. Typically, drones are not covered by the General Liability insurance policy, and there is a standard aviation exclusion in most policies. Some policies go as far to have specific “unmanned aircraft” exclusions. There are, however, markets available for Drone Liability policies. You should consult with your insurance advisor to confirm that the association is adequately insured with regard to the risks that may arise as a result of the use of drones.
Joe Thompson is a Client Advisor and Partner at Gulfshore Insurance who specializes in managing risk for community associations and various contractors. Comments and questions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gulfshore Insurance is a Naples, Florida based insurance agency specializing in business insurance including liability insurance, property insurance, workers compensation insurance, vehicle insurance, business income interruption insurance, cyber insurance, commercial umbrella insurance, and more. Our insurance and risk management advisors are industry specialists for condominium associations, golf and country clubs, oil and petroleum marketers, construction, landscaping, churches and non-profits, and work comp. Navigating insurance requires an experienced and trusted insurance agent who understands your business risks and exposures. Gulfshore Insurance services Naples, North Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Lido Beach, Longboat Key, Bradenton Beach, and Southwest Florida. We have office locations in Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, and Sarasota.
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