bridge inspections; aerial photography; and
wildlife nesting area evaluations.
Although the line-of-sight restrictions reduce the chance to provide many
other valuable services, the FAA has been
clear that qualified firms can extend the
range of their services by extending the
range of their drones. Firms can request a
waiver of most operational restrictions by
showing that the proposed operation can
be conducted safely under a waiver.
Risk Controls and
Until the FAA released the new regulations, only specific drone uses by specific
users were allowed. Now, many companies—including mapping, surveying,
engineering, and other design firms—are
ready to put drones into use. Certainly, any
legal drone use for design and construction must meet the commercial restrictions. Whether a firm owns and operates
the drone or subcontracts for its use with
a commercial provider, the entity operating the drone must have appropriate
risk controls and insurance coverage. The
insurance industry is moving forward on
coverage for drone use; a form of aviation
coverage is currently available.
The Insurance Services Office recently
developed and filed a variety of general
liability insurance endorsements addressing
drone exposures to allow for maximum flexibility with this newly emerging exposure.
Firms that are anticipating the legal use
of drones should check with their brokers
about their general liability coverage and
the new ISO endorsements. Schinnerer’s
professional liability policy covers the
liability of firms using drones as a tool to
perform their professional obligations.
Nahom A. Gebre, P.E., Esq., is a risk
management attorney for Victor O.
Schinnerer & Company Inc., the managing
underwriter for the Schinnerer Professional
Liability Insurance Program, which has
been commended by NSPE’s Professional
Engineers in Private Practice since 1957.
Unmanned aerial systems
are poised to become an
integral part of the design
and construction industry.
The Federal Aviation
Administration has moved
forward on setting up
general requirements for commercial drone
use and granting permits for certain uses
on design and construction projects, such
as observation and exploration.
Until now, the FAA has not allowed
commercial drone use without granting an
exemption. The regulatory process has taken
an incremental approach to integrating
drones into commercial operations. The
FAA’s hesitancy to authorize general drone
use is based on safety and privacy concerns.
The FAA’s Rules
Last year, the FAA published the long-awaited final rule on the commercial use of
small drones. By statute, a small drone is an
unmanned aircraft and the equipment necessary for the safe and efficient operation of
that aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds.
The final rule is the next phase of integrating small drones into the National
Airspace System. It gives a blanket authorization for many uses of commercial drones
and accommodates the evolution of drone-related technologies that could lead to
expanded, or unforeseen, uses.
Under the rule, the FAA lists “Operational
Among the major provisions are these:
The drone can be flown only within
line of sight of the operator or
assigned observer in daylight, or
twilight with anticollision lights.