10 exciting ways drones are transforming businesses

Drone cover Product 3 min read 15 July 2019

In recent years, drones have gone from military apparatus to infiltrating almost every type of industry under the sun, including agriculture. Besides being seen as a cool novelty, businesses are starting to realise how these remotely piloted aircrafts can help them save costs, boost operational efficiency, and open up new streams of revenue. Drone technology is getting more advanced by the day as sophisticated sensors allow drones to gather a wealth of data.


The drone economy is set to explode, with Goldman Sachs forecasting a $100 billion market opportunity over the next five years, so at some point your commercial clients might look to you for advice on safeguarding their operations.


Here are 10 interesting ways in which businesses are using drone technology:


  1. Cargo transport and delivery: From Amazon to Walmart, it’s only a matter of time before drones are used to deliver packages to homes. They can also be used to transport medicines and supplies to disaster zones, e.g. should there be a disease outbreak or severe flooding.
  2. Medical: In the Netherlands, a university is already testing ambulance drones, which can be used to deliver things like automatic external defibrillators. This can greatly increase survival rates with cases of cardiac arrests.
  3. Assisting insurance assessments: Soon insurance companies will use drones to access damages from flooding or fire, or by flying over car and rail accidents, gathering imagery that can assist during claims.
  4. Commercial filmmaking: Drones can capture images and video which would be extremely expensive for a helicopter to take - at a fraction of the cost. Drones are also used during sporting events, especially filming extreme sports, and to help athletes and sports teams to analyse and improve their performance.
  5. Search and rescue: Drones with thermal vision cameras can help find missing persons at night or in burning buildings.
  6. Conservation: The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has used drones since 2012 to monitor the populations of rhinos, tigers, elephants and deer in Nepal.
  7. Monitor air pollution: Methane sensor drones can be used to inspect gas pipelines and tanks, helping to create a cleaner environment and combat fire risk.
  8. Mining and quarrying: Using drones to survey structures, buildings or quarry faces means that it’s no longer necessary to put workers into hazardous or dangerous areas.
  9. Policing and law enforcement: Again, drones are much cheaper to use than police helicopters to survey large crowds or during search and rescue operations. Drones can also be fitted with non-lethal tools such as Tasers, or be used to snatch illegal drones out of the sky!
  10. Weather drones: Whereas presently meteorologists use radar, satellites and balloons to check atmospheric conditions, drones can access the lower atmosphere to help forecasters predict weather patterns more precisely. This means that tornado warnings can be given up to 60 minutes earlier than usual.


Legislation around commercial drones


With all these new opportunities come new risks so those looking to integrate drones into an existing business model should familiarise themselves with relevant legislation. The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) identifies operational drones as aircraft that have to abide by laws similar to those of manned aircraft. For commercial use especially, there’s strict legislation in place. As soon as you use a drone to earn income – even if you’re just selling footage you captured in your private capacity – you need to follow certain laws.


Here are some of the main ones:


  1. A commercial drone pilot needs to get his or her Remote Pilots Licence as a starting point, followed by an Air Service Licence (from the Department of Transport) and Remote Operators Certificate (from the SACAA)
  2. A drone may not be flown within a 10km radius of an airport, airstrip or helipad
  3. Drones must be operated in daylight and in clear weather conditions
  4. A drone may not be flown by an intoxicated individual
  5. A drone may not be flown within a 50m radius of any person, property or public road


Once the legislation side is understood, drone insurance is the next major consideration.


All about commercial drone insurance


In an environment rich in risk exposure – from human inexperience to theft to technical failings – the cost of the total loss of a drone can be devastating to a business. Insurance for drones is similar to an aircraft insurance policy, with third-party liability highly recommended.

In order to secure commercial drone insurance, business owners first need to decide what kind of cover they require – and how much of it – in line with the market value of their drone. Santam Aviation has developed an insurance product that provides the full spectrum of cover for drone owners and operators within the private and commercial space. Santam is one of the few insurers that are willing to insure this niche area of insurance.


It’s important to remind clients, especially those who operate drones recreationally, that insurance under Santam’s general personal lines offering covers very limited and restricted in-flight cover and would provide for loss of drone aircraft and claims stemming from Public Liability. Umbrella liability and Personal legal liability insurance are excluded.


Santam Aviation Insurance


The Santam Aviation policy offers full and comprehensive cover on the drone whether operated or not. This includes liability cover and comprehensive third party cover on the limit the client elects to take. Commercial or business policyholders should, however, note that the company will not indemnify the insured against liability in respect of the ownership, hire purchase or leasing of any aircraft as this is regulated by the Civil Regulations Act. It is therefore important that drones used in commercial applications are covered under a separate aviation policy which provides greater security against liability claims as a result of drone activities.


The following kinds of cover are available:


  • Cover for the physical loss and damage to the RPAS (airframe, payload, launch station and/or GCS) in its operating or routine testing environment.
  • Hull war extension cover: physical loss or damage to RPAS as a consequence of a deliberate/malicious act or act of sabotage.
  • War liability extension cover: third party liability loss or damage as a consequence of a deliberate/malicious act or act of sabotage arising out of the use of the RPAS.


Clients requiring cover will need to fill in a detailed questionnaire which asks for the model, make, management system and insured value of the RPAS; its class certificate and intended operating environment and the pilot details with questions about the operator’s pilot licence and total flying hours.


For clients to successfully claim:


  • They need to declare whether they’re intending to take the RPAS across the border.
  • They need to declare whether they intend to do any hazardous flying – like at night or near power-lines
  • They need to keep a flight log, in accordance with any standard flight operation.



Drone enthusiasts should familiarise themselves with the regulations for operating drones in South Africa which were introduced in 2015 by visiting www.safedrone.co.za. If you’d like to know more about aviation insurance, speak to your relationship manager or contact us. For more advice tailored to businesses, visit our blog.