AIG wants to insure your drones

October 27, 2015, 8:37 PM UTC
A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on September 5, 2015.
A drone is flown for recreational purposes in the sky above Old Bethpage, New York on September 5, 2015.
Photograph by Bruce Bennett — Getty Images

AIG is now selling drone insurance to businesses that fly unmanned aircraft — just in case.

Mike Brady, chief technology officer for the insurance giant, said Monday at a conference hosted by business software giant Oracle that his company has started offering coverage for any damage caused by drones and injuries to drone operators.

The policies are intended to capitalize on the rapid adoption of drones by businesses. Aerial photography companies, real estate agents, and utilities are just some of the businesses starting to regularly use drones and assume the inevitable liability of accidents.

“Clearly with that many drones in the airspace you run a risk, so AIG actually now offers drone insurance to our commercial customers,” Brady said.

In places, the policies, written specifically for drones, sound a lot like auto insurance plans. AIG (AIG) promises to cover “broad physical damage” and “third party liability coverage.”

But the policies take a detour from auto policies by covering drone “operators” and on-ground crew members. AIG also spells out that its policies cover losses resulting from electronic malfunctions and component failure.

However, drone operators must get optional coverage for other possible problems. They include hijacking, unlawful seizure, and hacking, or “spoofing.”

AIG’s insurance is available through its subsidiary, the Lexington Insurance Company. It includes insurance for government agencies that use drones for firefighting, search and rescue missions, and detecting explosives.

There was no word on the cost of AIG’s policies.

Drones weighing up to five pounds with a wingspan of up to three feet are covered. Plans are in the works for the insurance to cover organizations using drones for construction, farming, and oil and gas exploration, among others.

The move for drone insurance comes at a time when businesses are increasingly looking at using drone technology. By 2025, annual drone sales are expected to reach 160,000, according to the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International, an industry trade group.

To be legally able to fly drones, companies must apply for FAA approval. As of fall, over 2,000 organizations have been granted permits to fly drones for commercial purposes.

In April, the FAA granted drone permits to AIG and insurance companies State Farm and USAA to fly unmanned aircraft.

General Electric (GE) is one such company exploring the use of drones, and is currently conducting pilot tests with utility companies on using unmanned aircraft to inspect power line transmission towers.

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