Drone Insurance – What the legislation means for you (updated for 2021)

drone insurance uk

Welcome to our complete guide on drone insurance in the UK. On the 31st December 2020, new rules for UK drone owners came into effect. These rules divided drones into several different classes and introduced registration and insurance requirements for each class.

The rules will affect both hobbyists and commercial fliers and are designed to eliminate any ambiguity surrounding drone registration.

But, what do the rules mean for you? Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to familiarise yourself with the regulations or someone to help ensure you’re complying with the rules?

Well, there is. We’re here to answer your questions concerning the changes to legislation and detail how the new rules affect registration and insurance requirements in particular.

Why have new rules for drones been drawn up?

Drone sales have soared in the last few years. Unfortunately, so have the number of drone incidents, accidents and reports of misuse. In 2018, there were 125 reports of near-misses between drones and aircraft, up from just 6 in 2014.

Consequently, it was always only a matter of time before safety and regulatory issues would need to be addressed. The new rules have been introduced to help to reduce the number of incidents and ensure drones are flown safely.

The new rules also aim to simplify the way drones are classified, ensuring all operators understand what is legally required of them.

What were the rules for flying a drone?

Before introducing the new regulations, the Civil Aviation Authority’s 2019 ‘Drone Code’ established a set of flight rules that all operators must abide by. These rules are still applicable:

  • Your drone or model aircraft must remain in direct sight
  • Do not fly above an altitude of 400ft (120m) and do not fly near aircraft, airports or airfields
  • Do not fly closer than 50m to buildings, cars, trains or boats
  • Do not fly closer than 150m to a crowd of 1,000 people or more
  • Do not fly closer than 150m to built-up areas
  • Do not fly in an airport’s flight restriction zone

What happens If I don’t stick to these drone user rules?

Drone users who flout the new height and airport boundary restrictions could be charged with recklessly or negligently acting in a manner likely to endanger an aircraft or any person in an aircraft. This could result in an unlimited fine, up to five years in prison, or both.

What are the new rules for drones?

The rules introduced at the end of 2020 cover how drones are classified, whether you need to register your drone and whether you require insurance. Below, we’ll look at each of these factors in turn.

The Open, Specific and Certified Categories

Though it may at first appear complex, the new classification framework is designed to simplify the way we categorise drones.

The legislation establishes three distinct categories based on how you intend to use the drone and the level of risk involved. These categories are Open, Specific and Certified.

Open Category – Requires no authorisation from the CAA. Covers low-risk drone flights that involve a light drone or take place in a largely unpopulated area. The Open Category itself features three subcategories – A1, A2 and A3.

  • A1 (flying over people). Drones can fly over people for a short period, as long as it’s not a crowd
  • A2 (flying close to people). Drones must maintain a distance of 30m from people and operators must register their drone and pass the relevant exams
  • A3 (flying far from people). Drones must stay at least 50m (horizontally) away from people and 150m (horizontally) from parks and built-up areas

For a full break-down of Open Category specifications, you can find the relevant CAA factsheet here.

Specific Category – Requires authorisation from the CAA. The CAA defines this category as ‘operations that present a greater risk than that of the Open category, or where one or more elements of the operation fall outside the boundaries of the Open category.’

Certified Category – Requires authorisation from the CAA. The CAA defines this category as ‘operations that present an equivalent risk to that of manned aviation; because of this they are subjected to the same regulatory regime (i.e. certification of the unmanned aircraft, certification of the UAS operator, licensing of the remote pilot).’

It is important to note that the new legislation does away with distinctions between commercial and recreational use. This means that these categories apply no matter whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional flyer.

Drone Classification

On top of these three categories, drones are now divided into five different classes. Different classes can be flown in different ways. For instance, a C0 drone can fly in all of the Open subcategories listed above. However, a heavier, more dangerous C4 drone can only fly in the A3 subcategory, meaning it has to stay 50m from people and 150m from parks and built-up areas.

C0 – Small drones that weigh less that may or may not be classified as toys. They must:

  • Weigh less than 250g
  • Have a max speed of 19 m/s (42.5 mph)
  • Cannot fly more than 120m (400ft) above take-off area

C0 drones can be flown in the A1, A2 and A3 subcategories.

C1 – Drones that:

  • Weigh less than 900g
  • Have a max speed of 19 m/s (42.5 mph)
  • Are designed to minimise injury to people
  • Are constructed and perform in a way that means no more than 80 joules of energy is transmitted should the drone collide with a human head

C1 drones can be flown in the A1, A2 and A3 subcategories

C2 – Drones that:

  • Weigh less than 4kg
  • Are designed to minimise injury to people
  • Have a low-speed mode that limits speed to a maximum of 3 m/s (6.7 mph)

C2 drones can be flown in the A2 and A3 subcategories

C3 – Drones that:

  • Weigh less than 25kg
  • Possess automatic control modes

C3 drones can be flown in the A3 subcategory

C4 – Drones that:

  • Weigh less than 25kg
  • Do not possess automatic control modes

C4 drones can be flown in the A3 subcategory

Understanding Drone Registration

The new regulations mean that all drones weighing more than 250g must be registered and their operators in possession of both a Flyer ID and Operator ID. When it comes to drones weighing less than 250g, the following rules apply. If a drone:

  • Weighs less than 250g and is classified as a toy – no registration or IDs required
  • Weighs less than 250g, is not a toy and features no camera – no registration or IDs required
  • Weighs less than 250g, is not a toy but does feature a camera – registration and Operator ID required

If you’re an individual looking to get your Operator and Flyer IDs, you’ll need to pass the relevant theory tests. You can register your drone and find out more about the CAA exams here. Organisations can get more information here.

What will happen if I don’t comply with the new rules?

The new rules will give the police much greater powers. When requested, you’ll have to show your drone registration details. If the police consider that a drone is being flown unsafely or illegally, they will be able to seize it, and you could be prosecuted. Drone users who do not register or take the competency test can face unlimited fines or up to five years in prison.

How will I know if I am flying in an illegal area?

Many apps help drone pilots make sure they are not flying in or into a no-go zone. These will also help other drone users see who is in the air and where they’re flying, which can prevent crashes. Geofencing, a virtual boundary, can be used to alert you if you are close to a no-fly area.

Is UK drone insurance compulsory?

Drone insurance is not compulsory if you’re flying recreationally. However, you are responsible for your actions and may be liable should your drone cause damage or injury.

Some form of insurance is compulsory if you are flying for commercial purposes. This UK drone insurance must be EC785/2004 compliant to utilise drones in the Open or Specific categories.

Even if you don’t need drone insurance by law, having it ensures peace of mind. Things can easily go wrong. The high cost of paying out legal fees or replacing your drone means insurance can save you money in the long run. For businesses, drones should be treated just like any other business asset. After all, if your drone isn’t insured and something happens, it’s your bottom line that suffers.

Does my household insurance cover my recreational drone?

Most standard household policies exclude aircraft or motorised vehicles. There is much debate about whether a drone falls into that category and also about when drones can be classified as toys. Keen to protect themselves, many insurance companies now have specific exclusion clauses for drones, even if they are only toys.

To find out if your home insurance already includes drone insurance cover, you should check directly with your insurance company. Be aware that although your drone may be covered by your home insurance for theft or damage within your property, it may not be covered whilst it’s being transported or flown. And home insurance is unlikely to protect you from a claim of public liability. If you want this level of cover, you’ll need to take out a separate policy.

What about high-value drones?

The cost of complex drones can reach the thousands. Check the individual limit on possessions for your household insurance policy. Depending on the cost of replacement, you may need to add your drone as a specified item on your home insurance policy. And remember, that may only cover you for damage or theft from the home. If your drone is stolen when you’re not at your property, it’s unlikely it will be covered. You may decide it is easier to take out specific UK drone insurance.

Do I need any other insurance cover for my drone?

Public liability insurance is a significant consideration for all drone owners. Drones are capable of doing substantial damage to property and people if they crash. Accidents can and do happen. Even if you are flying safely, you could find yourself facing an expensive legal claim. Drone public liability insurance will payout for the cost of legal fees to defend your case as well as any compensation you are ordered to pay to an injured party.

What about privacy laws?

Personal injury and damage to property are not the only legal claims you could face. If you fly a drone fitted with a camera, you could also face action for breaching data protection and privacy laws. Again, UK drone insurance can help you to pay your legal fees in these cases.

Things to consider when you request a hobby drone insurance quote:

  • Is it just you who will be flying your drone or do you need cover for multiple pilots?
  • Do you have more than one craft that you would like to insure?
  • Do you want insurance to cover the cost of fixing or replacing your drone if it is damaged in flight?
  • Are you flying in the UK only or abroad?
  • Do you want insurance to cover you during competitions?
  • You will need specialist commercial insurance if you are planning on flying your drone in a country that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised against travel to
  • Do you need insurance cover for supporting equipment? If so, make sure this is included in your commercial drone policy.

For the best value deal, shop around or ask a specialist UK drone insurance broker, like Park Insurance, to do this for you.

Park Insurance offers commercial drone insurance to UK businesses of all sizes. And we can provide you with a great value quote for hobby drone insurance too. Because we’re independent brokers, we’re free to scour the market for the most competitive price. We’ll source cover that’s tailored to your specific needs. That means you get the level of protection you need, without paying over the odds.

Call our friendly team on 0117 955 6835 or get a quote today.