If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’re well aware that for the last few months my colleague Nicole Vinson and I have been writing posts on the continuously evolving and changing landscape of drones and their use in the insurance industry. Some of our prior posts included Nicole’s blogs, The Debate on Drones and Insurance Heats Up, and Property Damage to Be Assessed by Drones? State Farm Says Yes, as well as my post, Drones to Hit the Skies Over Pennsylvania. After an increase in popularity and safety issues, the Federal Government just announced that all drones will need to be registered, both private and commercial.
During a press conference on October 21, 2015, U.S. Department of Transportation (“DOT”) Secretary, Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) Administrator Michael Huerta, “announced the creation of a task force of private sector and government representatives to craft recommendations for establishing the first ever federal drone registry.”1 The ultimate goal is, “that non-commercial drones will be subject to the same registration and regulation as commercially-operated unmanned crafts.”2
As noted above, the cited reasoning for the creation of the task force is the increase in popularity: “The move, according to Foxx, addresses the surge in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently populating our airspace—there are twice as many reported drone sightings by pilots this year as in 2014.”3 For example, “[t]he FAA has reported more than 650 unauthorized drone sightings so far this year, as of Aug. 9, compared with 238 for all of 2014. If sightings continue at that rate, the number would near 1,100 by the year end.”4
This coming Christmas is also apparently a big reason for the quick announcement and turnaround from the Task Force: “The recommendations are due by Nov. 20, and administration officials hope to have the registry in place before Christmas, when they say that more than 1 million new drones could be given as gifts to new untrained operators.”5 The new regulations will also be imposed on those who already own drones, as “[t]he registration requirements would also apply to drones already in use.”6
The increase is not just among privately owned drones; businesses, including the insurance industry, have been utilizing the UAVs more and more. “Businesses like Facebook, Amazon Prime, and Google are already using drones for data collection using video streaming, deliveries, and other services.”7
The insurance industry has been increasing their use of drones—particularly for roof inspections. While it certainly provides a safer alternative than putting a person on a roof, a drone won’t be able to lift a shingle and see if it’s damaged or if there has been water infiltration. No matter what happens with these drones, they’ll never (at least not any time soon) replace the need for a real person to perform a real inspection.
Like anything else, this decision will come with a host of complaints and praise from either side of the debate. We’ll see where we go from here, and the Merlin Law Group will keep you updated.
As always I’ll leave you with a (mildly) related tune, here’s Styx with Mr. Roboto: