Australia’s rapidly expanding drone market, combined with Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) industry consultation, has seen QBE Insurance launch a new dedicated drone insurance policy.

In conjunction with the policy launch, QBE Insurance’s Aviation team has released a report highlighting some of the risks many owners and operators face. One of the risks discussed in the report includes how one in 50 drones crash, which means if an operator is not adequately covered it leaves them open to the loss of valuable assets, or potentially huge financial losses for any damage or injuries that may arise from an incident.

QBE Australia and New Zealand Operations Manager – Underwriting and Distribution, Michael McNamara, said ‘commercial usage’ can extend to any drone flown for a purpose other than sport or recreation. “A tradesperson may use a drone to conduct a roof inspection. In this instance, the drone would be considered a commercial operation, even though it’s not being used to sell the tradesperson’s service.”

QBE’s report indicates the most common commercial use of drones by Australian businesses are for aerial photography, inspection and surveying, with a strong emergence of drone operators contracting their services in the resources and energy sector.

McNamara said that he is seeing drones being increasingly used to conduct asset inspection work on properties, roofs, chimneys, power lines, pipelines, railways and bridges, and to do project management work. “We’re also seeing Australian farmers investing in entry-level RPAS units to conduct crop monitoring, aerial spraying, irrigation and soil and field analysis.”

“The exemption in the CASA regulations has resulted in greater accessibility for commercial drone operators, and there is a risk that some operators without aviation experience do not understand the regulations and legislation they operate under.”

QBE’s report highlights that one of the greatest risks for drone owners and operators is in liability to third parties. If a drone being used for commercial purposes causes bodily injury or property damage, the owner/operator may be subject to strict liability. Strict liability means there’s no requirement for a third party to prove fault or negligence against the party that caused damage or injury This means that an owner/operator who is involved in an accident is at higher risk of huge financial loss.