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
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
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.