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Drones getting more use by commercial contractors, homeowners could be held liable for damage

Photo Source: AP Photo Source: AP
(ANGIE'S LIST) -

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or drones are everywhere these days.

And ever since the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, started granting exemptions for commercial use last year, more contractors have been using them. And you as a property owner could be liable if someone uses a drone at your home or business and something goes wrong.

David Beaudin has been inspecting homes and buildings with his lightweight drone for more than a year. It helps to give him a better view of rooftops. But the FAA recently grounded his craft, because businesses can't fly them without a special exemption.

Angie Hicks of Angie's List explains, "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, who is home and building inspector adds, "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% 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.

His concern is, "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 FAA cracking down.

Derek Hammer, an aerial photographer, is one of them. He 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 FAA's only concern, but homeowners should also be concerned about liability in case the drone crashes through a window or falls on someone and hurts them.

"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"
 Hammer adds.

Hicks recommends you ask all contractors to see their insurance, and find out if there is coverage specific to drone usage.  Experts say drones will help to generate more than 100,000 jobs in the next 10 years as the business grows toward a 100 billion dollar industry.

The FAA is expected to issue new regulations in the near future, which will supersede the exemptions currently being granted.

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