By Charlee R. DeFebbo, alternative energy specialist at Brown & Brown Metro Insurance
More and more residential, commercial and utility-scale solar contractors are using drones in their everyday business, and for good reason. The pilot-less aircraft allows an operator to formulate design plans, store data and assess O&M work. Some drones even use thermal imaging to diagnose faults on specific panels.
The increased use of drones promises to decrease on-the-job injuries, and even project costs as artificial intelligence continues to replace physical labor. But even with such advantages, it’s important to know the risks associated with using drones in solar and ensure your insurance provides adequate coverage.
Physical damage: It’s important to keep your expensive drone out of harm’s way, including theft and fire.
Data breach: With so many smart devices on the market, it’s important to know what kind of data your drone is capturing and where. Does it get sent to the cloud? Is that cloud the same cloud where you store important confidential information such as customers’ names, addresses or credit card numbers? If so, a breach of your drone’s data could jeopardize your customers’ sensitive information.
Property damage: Your drone could damage someone else’s property, such as flying through an attic window or plummeting out of the sky and smashing a windshield.
Bodily injury: Obviously, flying your drone into a human would be an unfortunate event to say the least. But what would make it even worse is if you are sued and your insurance doesn’t cover it. While insurance policies may cover many of the events above, bodily injury and even “mental anguish” from a drone isn’t always included. You might turn to your general liability insurance policy for coverage, but you may find an exclusion for aircraft.
Drone technology, like the solar industry in general, has thus far outpaced the insurance industry. There just isn’t enough data for insurance companies to be comfortable with every single risk associated with the technology. While commonplace use of drone technology in the solar industry could usher in significant savings on overall insurance and project costs, the insurance industry will continue to adapt. So it’s important to talk to your insurance provider to understand your coverage and eliminate as much risk as possible.