Design professionals frequently use drones (unmanned aerial systems) to help provide professional services. A recent article by Mark A. Dombroff, “Lessons in Liability: Drones 101,” reminds us to consider the regulatory and risk management issues that can arise from your relationship with a third-party drone provider.
First, consider that accidents, while rare, do occur. Drones have collided with a U.S. Army Black Hawk Helicopter, a fan at a baseball park in San Diego, and a jet airplane on its approach to Quebec City airport. In some cases, liability for damages may attach to the entity that hired the drone, especially if they provided direction regarding where and what to inspect.
Dombroff recommends taking the following steps before hiring a vendor for drone-related services:
Most drone-related exposures are not covered by professional liability insurance. The Schinnerer program covers the professional liability of firms using drones as a tool to perform professional obligations if the underlying cause of action is based on an allegation of negligence in the performance of professional services. There is no coverage if the allegation merely relates to negligence in operating the drone.
For more information on using drones for professional services, download our article on the subject, “Using Drones for Professional Services,” and Michael J. Corso’s paper on drones, “Rise of the Drones: The Integration of Unmanned Aircraft into the National Airspace System,” presented at Schinnerer’s 55th Annual Meeting of Invited Attorneys. Corso’s paper includes sample language that should be included in subcontracts between design professionals and drone operators, including insurance requirements, indemnities, and warranties. (Both resources are password-protected for use by current policyholders and brokers only.)