With the commercial drone industry continuing to grow and develop new use cases, it is more important than ever to consider UAV insurance.
Since drones first arrived in the UK, the market has expanded with a host of new industries adopting drone technology to perform different tasks. The wide variation of possibilities for drone use has made insurance a much more complicated field than it was a decade ago.
One of the first commercial UAV insurance providers, Coverdrone, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the John Heath Insurance brokerage, has seen first-hand how the market has changed.
Company director, Andrew Heath, tells Commercial Drone Professional that the company has had to evolve to keep up with the growing and changing market.
How was Coverdrone founded? What need was there for a commercial UAV insurance brokerage at that time?
We were, and are, a commercial insurance brokerage – and have been for over forty years. Coverdrone evolved when dealing with an existing client – the very first importer of drones into the UK.
His initial idea was to sell them to the police and emergency services. He wanted insurance, so he could carry out his demonstrations. So, we insured the first commercial drone operator in the UK as he performed demonstrations for those types of organisations.
We were involved from the beginning, before the CAA fully established drone regulations, rules, heights and distances. At one point, they even grounded all drone users for approximately 12 months. When they came back on the scene, the first NQE’s appeared.
How has the business changed in the ten years since you launched?
Initially, Coverdrone didn’t exist. We sold drone insurance through the John Heath name, and Coverdrone was launched just before the first commercial UAV Show in London.
That was nearly five years ago, and at that point we went to that show and co-branded it. So it was a soft launch. One half of the stand was John Heath, the other was Coverdrone. We revealed Coverdrone slowly, eventually dropping John Heath from everything, so people now only see the Coverdrone name.
How has the company met and exceeded expectations? What were the original goals?
The original goal was to keep our core values of high customer service, whilst providing an excellent product. Everything we do now still comes down to that.
When you see our claims service, we have a 48-hour turnaround. If someone calls us, we have a 20-minute response time. It’s what you would expect from a specialist insurance brokerage.
What opportunities exist now that didn’t 10 years ago when you launched?
Originally, everything was manual. People had to email or phone us, and we would talk through their requirements. Then we would email a quotation.
That’s all changed. We have built a full online management system, and it’s not simply a quote and buy website, with items in a shopping basket. It is a full-cycle system, offering customers quotes, and the option to choose the types and levels of cover they require, and also renewals.
The system is also very flexible. Customers can return, make mid-term changes, amend the drones listed with us, and change the liability levels.
We have made a significant investment, and we have pumped a lot of time and money into the online management tool. We are the only drone insurer that offers a full-cycle system.
How does the pace of change in the drone industry impact your business and strategy?
We have always allowed the regulators to be regulators. Our policy wording lets customers know that we expect commercial and recreational users to comply with the local aviation authorities depending on the country they are operating in.
Because we don’t just provide drone insurance in the UK, Coverdrone needs to listen to other authorities, like the European Union, Canadians, Australians and so on. Within all the policies it will stipulate that operators must comply with the local aviation authorities, so if the regulations change then the policy will change automatically.
The drone industry is constantly changing, and the requirements of drone operators also changes rapidly. Working closely with our excellent IT providers enables us to make changes swiftly, such as launching our pay-per-day insurance product on the back of our Coverdrone FlySafe app. This app also provides worldwide maps, pre-flight safety data and live notifications during flight time.
What is the level of competition like in the drone insurance industry?
There’s more competition for us now. When we started we probably insured 100% of the drone operators in the UK. Now there’s plenty of competition out there, and we recognise there’s always going to be competition.
We listen to our customers, gather feedback, rather than just following and mimicking what the competition is doing. If we think there’s a big enough demand for what we’re getting asked to do, then we will try and accommodate the change as much as we can.
How do you look to compete with other companies in a way that isn’t just about price?
Our core values are to offer an excellent product, with great customer service at a competitive price. Dealing with enquiries and especially claims in a speedy manner makes us stand out from the crowd. The Coverdrone FlySafe app is something we offer to all our clients free of charge and it includes all premium features available.
If you are a Coverdrone customer and you use the NATS drone assist app, you should consider logging into ours for the extra benefits.