Drones are one of the most popular consumer gadgets to hit the market in a decade. Whether you receive one as a gift for the holidays, or use it for business purposes, it’s an exciting technology that’s become so easily accessible by the general public, that you could order one right now off Amazon.com and have it at your door and flying in two days.
Further, recreational drones are no paper airplane. With ranges of up to 300 feet of altitude, and upwards of 30 minutes of flight time, these devices could be dangerous in the air if handled carelessly.
Most consumer drones cost anywhere from $80 to $1,200, with professional and commercial grade drones costing up to $20,000 or more. While we may be many years off from drones flying all around our heads like mosquitos, delivering everything from packages and groceries to even people, we are in a time of unprecedented proliferation of these airborne consumer electronics.
With that growth comes concerns. How safe is it to fly a drone? What happens if a battery fails, and a drone comes plummeting from the sky in a crowded public space? Are the pilots of the drones, who are more often than not teenagers and young, inexperienced adults, even aware of the safety precautions and guidelines for safe recreational drone use?
Personal injury considerations of recreational drone use
For the typical recreational pilot, flying a drone safely requires great technical skill and practice. The dexterity needed to control the aircraft as it moves in three-dimensional space is more than you might expect – one hand controls the lift, while the other controls the direction, and both hands control the pitch. It’s a lot of work, and no one is naturally good at flying a drone. You have to learn it.
This is the main reason why the Federal Aviation Administration, of FAA, has been slow to adopt regulation regarding the recreation flying of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The commercialization of drones has far outpaced the reaction time for federal regulators to adapt to their availability. The FAA’s primary concern, as they have states, continues to be a concern for public safety, and the lack of established flight safety standards.
So here is something to consider from a personal injury perspective. Drones can easily lose altitude for any number of reasons – a simple miscalculation by the pilot, environmental factors like wind, or just about any other factor. What if a drone crashes into someone and injures them? You as the pilot could be held liable, though the laws regulating recreational drone use are extremely new and untested.
What if someone unknowingly injures themselves by handling the sharp and blunt blades of the drone? What if someone suffers burns by touching an overheating battery?
How about inadvertent negligence involving the use of a drone? What if you are flying a drone, and someone becomes distracted by it, and causes a crash? And how about the premises within which you are flying the done? What if you are on public or private property when you are flying a drone, and it injures someone?
The obvious implication here is that flying a consumer-grade drone without proper liability insurance and proper safety training could be a bad idea. You could be held personal liable for negligence for any accident or injury that occurs as a result of you flying your drone.