MADISON (WKOW) -- Drones are everywhere and ever since the Federal Aviation Administration started granting exemptions for commercial use last year, more and more contractors have been using them in their work. But if someone uses one at your home or business and something goes wrong, you could be liable.
David Beaudin has been inspecting homes and buildings with his lightweight drone for more than a year. It helps him get a great view of rooftops he might not otherwise have. But the F-A-A recently grounded his craft because businesses can’t fly them without a special exemption. Angie's List founder Angie Hicks says, “Many of them think as long as they’re not charging you for actually using the drone that they’re allowed to do it without proper authorization from the FAA, but that’s not the case. If someone’s going to use one on your property, be sure to ask for their authorization and exemption from the FAA.”
Beaudin says, “I want to find out what it’s going to take to operate legally. I don’t want to operate outside of the law. I want to be 100 percent good, and be able to sleep at night and not worry about odd letters coming to me out of the blue.”
Beaudin plans to file for his exemption, but the approval process could take up to four months. “I think their “one-size fits all” isn’t working and it’s really going to hold back something that could help people.”
Many other inspectors, aerial photographers and real estate agents are using the new technology – some legally, some not. The legal ones are happy to see the F-A-A cracking down. Aerial photographer Derek Hammer says, “I think the best part about it is that it forces an operator to think through all of the things that they really need to be doing to operate safely.”
Safety is the F-A-A’s only concern, but homeowners should also be concerned about liability in case the drone crashes through a window or – worse yet – falls on a person. Hammer says, “I think there’s some notion among some folks that just because it’s an unmanned system that there’s no danger involved and that, because I’m not a pilot that’s flying in my aircraft, I can’t be hurt, and quite to the contrary.”
Angie says you should ask any contractor to see their insurance and ask if it’s specific for drone usage. Drone experts say the vehicles will help generate more than 100-thousand jobs in the next 10 years as it grows toward being a 100-billion-dollar industry. The F-A-A is expected to issue new regulations in the near future, which will supersede the exemptions currently being granted.