BENGALURU: From monitoring containment zones to spraying disinfectants, drone technology has found new applications during the Covid-19 outbreak. The increase in use of drone services has resulted in insurance companies witnessing a rise in queries for drone insurance policies since lockdown, prompting many to mull exclusive cover for the unmanned aerial vehicles.
While HDFC Ergo has just launched a cover to safeguard drone owners and pilots from any third-party liability while flying a drone commercially, Tata AIG has been insuring the device against damages for the past two years as well as covering third-party liability.
Notably, third-party liability insurance was made mandatory for drone operations in 2019 but only a handful of companies provide policies that cover damage to the machine or injury to the owner.
But that’s changing. Insurance companies that TOI spoke to said queries for drone insurance policies have gone up since lockdown, forcing them to rethink. Many inquiries are coming from engineering and manufacturing firms, said an official at the New India Assurance Co. “Private firms are looking at remote monitoring through drones. For instance, drones can help in investigating rooflines, leaks caused by water damage, possibility of fire, and keep an eye on hard-to-reach areas in a building,” he said.
The official added that currently a firm can protect drones against damages as well as third-party liability under their industrial all risk policy. “Due to increased demand we are considering a separate policy related to UAVs.”
The United India Insurance Company too is mulling an exclusive policy for drones, an official told TOI. “At present, we cover personal items, including drones, under a householders policy. We have insured drones for use in the entertainment industry. But the policy only covers damage to the device and not third-party liability,” he said.
According to insurance companies, available insurance cover for drones has been taken by wedding photographers and the entertainment industry in the past. Chennai-based wedding photographer Moses Rajkumar told TOI that he has insured three of his drones that cost between Rs 2.5 lakh and Rs 4 lakh each. “I bought a policy that charged a premium of Rs 12,500 yearly to insure three drones for Rs 7 lakh in case of damages or third-party liability.”
More insurance products are likely to flood the market after the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) set up a working group this week to suggest insurance products covering various risks involved in use of drones. The authority had noted the significant role drones were playing in Covid-19 situation and added that there was an “immediate need to make available suitable insurance products covering the various risks involved in the use of drones.”
According to an insurance company, India has about 19,500 registered drones in the country. During the Covid-19 outbreak, drones have been put to multiple uses. Delhi authorities used drones to spray disinfectants and monitor lockdown violations while Gujarat police used them to track those flouting rules. Drones were used for surveillance in Mumbai’s Dharavi as well.
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