Drones are a big part of our future

3 min read 02 June 2021

You call your Uber Elevate. Your drone taxi arrives and flies you to your meeting. While you’re there, you organise the drone delivery of your business’ cargo from ship to shore. You’re feeling philanthropic, so you donate to an NPO with blood-delivering drones that take lifesaving supplies to remote regions. As you sit in the skyrise, you notice a drone washing the windows. And you take a bite of an apple that you know a drone helped grow, by providing crop spraying from the sky. 

It’s a future that’s not far off, according to James Godden, Head of Aviation at Santam. He says the use of drones is accelerating and diversifying exponentially, in ways we have yet to imagine. For example, India is now the latest country to test drone delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to rural regions. Locally, Eskom is considering deploying drones for powerline inspections. And private security company Fidelity is one of the country’s first providers to use drones to track criminals’ activity in suburban zones.

The unmanned aerial vehicles are getting more sophisticated, with the latest generation promising built-in safeguards, smart sensors and self-monitoring. Going forward, drones will continue to serve multiple sectors. Insider Intelligence predicts the global military drone market will reach $23.78 billion by 2027, and, by the end of this year, consumer drone shipments will hit 29 million, with drone sales topping $12 billion.

Godden adds, “From cargo delivery and security and surveillance to construction, agriculture, geographical surveyance, anti-poaching efforts, the movement of medical supplies and more, drones already play pivotal roles in our lives. This will only accelerate. We expect to see insurers innovating to keep abreast with the pace of change. We’ll be focusing on using risk intelligence to quantify and mitigate risk in real-time. As use cases shift, cover needs to evolve simultaneously.”

Here, he outlines some essential things for drone owners to know:

  1. If you’re using your drone commercially, you need a licence: As soon as you use your drone to earn any income, you legally require a licence to fly it.
  2. Most common reason for claims: Theft out a vehicle is the most common reason for Santam’s drone-related claims. Drones are high-value items (some cost a few million rands!) so insurance should be a strong consideration. Interestingly, birds also account for losses. They sometimes have a tendency to dive-bomb drones in the sky. As drone uses evolve – from cargo delivery to human taxis – insurance policies are likely to get more complicated. Right now, the big factors that determine premium price are the drone’s cost and whether it’s intended for private or commercial use. There’s also a third-party consideration that’s based on whether the drone will be flown in a rural or urban area.
  3. Winter warnings: Are you covered if your drone gets drenched in a winter downpour? Or gets hit by hail? Or lost in the fog? Godden says that cover is not seasonal, but claims are only viable as a result of an accident, which wouldn’t include wear and tear by continued exposure to weather conditions. However, if your drone crashed while operating in the rain, there would be cover assuming the drone’s manufacturing capability allowed it to fly in the rain.
  4. Wait for 60 days: If a drone drops from the sky and disappears, there’s usually a waiting period – often 60 days – before a claim is processed, in case the equipment is recovered.
  5. Know the regulations: All operators have a responsibility to know the regulations around drones – and to use common sense. For example, drones recently flew directly into the flight paths of two helicopters, which suspended operations at a major Gauteng heliport in May. That’s obviously not a good idea and could have endangered people’s lives.

Visit Santam.co.za for more information on drone cover options.