It’s not uncommon to see commercial drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or small unmanned aerial vehicles (sUAVs) at a construction site. They can help construction businesses in many ways, such as:
- Monitoring projects for employee safety
- Surveying large sites
- Inspecting hard-to-reach locations
- Ensuring quality of work
While drones are reasonably priced and relatively easy to operate, it can expose your construction business to different risks. From following federal regulations to making sure you aren’t invading people’s privacy, it’s essential to be sure you’re using your commercial drone appropriately. Ask yourself these four questions before you start using a drone, UAV or sUAV at your construction sites.
1. Have You Applied for and Received FAA Approval?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows the commercial use of drones that weigh less than 55 pounds. Businesses must follow Part 107 of the FAA’s guidelines, which you can do in three steps.
Learn the Rules
It’s important to make sure you’re using your drone appropriately. This includes knowing where you can fly it and what areas to keep it away from. Using your drone in a way that doesn’t align with the FAA’s regulations means your business can face penalties or even criminal charges.
Part 107 of the FAA’s regulations doesn’t cover some operations, such as operating:
- From a moving vehicle or aircraft
- A half-hour before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset in local time
- Multiple small unmanned aircrafts
If the way you want to operate your drone isn’t covered in Part 107, you’ll need to file a waiver application with the FAA.
Become a FAA-Certified Drone Pilot
Before you or one of your employees can start operating a drone at your construction site, you’ll need to pass a test to become a drone pilot. The FAA requires drone pilots to be:
- At least 16 years old
- Able to read, write and understand English
- In a physical and mental condition to safely fly UAVs
Whoever will pilot the drone at your construction site needs to take and pass the knowledge test to become a certified pilot. The test covers different topics, including:
- Regulations related to small unmanned aircrafts
- Airspace classification
- Radio communication procedures
- Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
A Remote Pilot Certificate is valid for two years. Your drone pilot will need to take a recertification test every two years to maintain their certificate.
Register Your Drone with the FAA
You’ll want to create an account on the FAA’s drone website to register your drone. There is a $5 registration fee and it will be valid for three years. Once you’re registered, mark your drone with the registration number in case it gets lost or stolen.
2. Are You and Your Employees Trained to Operate a Commercial Drone?
While operating a commercial drone is relatively easy, make sure you and your employees are familiar with the controls and functions. The last thing you want to do is crash the drone or have one of your employees cause damage with it.
It’s a good idea to make a plan that explains how you intend to use your commercial drone. It can include specific flight plans to use on construction sites. Give your employee time to practice piloting the drone and following the specific flight patterns so they’re prepared when using it on a construction site.
3. Are You Aware of Your Surroundings and Where You’ll Operate the Drone?
Imagine if your construction business’ drone flew too close to someone else’s property and recorded something it shouldn’t have. Think about the damage this could do to your business’ reputation. That’s why it’s important for you to be aware of your surroundings before flying a drone.
Current FAA regulations don’t allow you to operate a drone over people who aren’t involved in your project or flight. So, you’ll need to make sure you know the areas around your construction site where there may be people you can’t fly over. For example, your construction site may be next to a public park or private residence. If you know this ahead of time, you and your employees can avoid flying the drone in those specific areas.
4. Do You Have the Proper Insurance Coverages?
Operating a drone on a construction site may make your construction business more efficient, but it does leave you open to different risks. Before you start flying a drone, check your insurance policies to make sure you have the right coverage.
Your current policy may exclude the use of drones. If so, you’ll want to see if you can add more coverage to help protect your business from:
- Lesiones corporales
- Daños a la propiedad
- Personal and advertising injury
Drones, as well as other evolving technology, have the potential to make it easier for construction businesses to do their jobs. But, this efficiency can come at a risk. That’s why managing your risk exposures is important if you want to use drones at your construction site. You’ll want to work with an experienced insurer that can help you get the right coverage for your construction business, and is there for you at every step of the way.