Automated Drones: What are the Liability Risks for Contractors?

Unmanned drones are rapidly becoming commonplace on construction sites because they help to reduce the costs of doing business. With the right software, a drone can deliver real-time maps and 3D models of construction projects that can help to reduce theft, find potential accidents waiting to happen, and help to identify issues such as environmental waste creation that may not have been seen before. But the use of drones and the software that is being developed have become hot topics among the law enforcement and insurance communities. It turns out that operating drones on a construction site is not as cut and dry as people may think.


Drones are becoming a benefit and a burden for the construction industry.

Land Surveys

Perhaps one of the most pressing issues with drones in construction is the problems that arise with aerial property surveys and their accuracy.  As the laws in each state stand today, a certified surveyor must review a site survey before it can be presented to a property owner or used by a construction company. Some states have gone so far as to say that the survey company that presents a property survey is liable for damages resulting from an improper survey even if the property is sold to a different owner.

The issue with drones is not having an initial site survey approved by a certified professional, but the ongoing collection of site data that is used to guide the progress of a project. It would be simple enough to have a certified surveyor review an initial aerial survey taken from a drone, but it is impractical to have a surveyor review the streams of data collected and used every day on a construction site. Software developers will need to find ways that satisfy existing laws for their drone software to legally be used in the construction industry.

Flying Recklessly

Another big issue with drones is companies that do not follow the laws regarding the use of smaller drones under 55 pounds. The commonly held view is that if a drone is operated properly and does not attract attention to itself, then the FAA will refrain from citing the company for any reckless drone use.  But regulations such as having a licensed pilot on site to supervise the use of drones, keeping drones at least 500 feet away from anyone not involved in their operation, and keeping drones out of commercial flight paths seem to be difficult for some companies to follow.

The FAA has gone to the point of recommending nearly $2 million in fines for a company that routinely violated drone operation laws. In short, the construction companies that are finding it difficult to follow the laws or keep their drones from being sighted doing illegal activity are ruining it for the rest of the industry.


Insurance rules and aviation laws are not keeping pace with the development of drone technology.


A huge liability for construction companies that use drones is the possibility of infringing on privacy laws. This issue is particularly heated because the FAA has no rules in place to determine how privacy is to be treated. One suggestion has been for construction companies to get written permission from those who live and work in the surrounding area for the use of drones, but construction companies argue that this type of process adds unnecessary costs to a project.

If you want to keep up with the latest in drone liability news, then start a course with PDH Contractors today. At PDH Contractors, you will be given all of the latest information on the construction industry, and the regulatory resources you need to maintain or renew your contractor’s license.


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