What is Flock?
Flock is an insurance scheme for commercial drone pilots and those in training to obtain a PfCO with cover being taken out on a flight-by-flight basis. Flock plans to extend the scheme to include recreational pilots without a PfCO in the near future.
The cover is available in the UK and Channel Islands, it’s also planned to roll-out across Europe soon.
While some people’s first concern with regards to drone insurance might be to cover the cost of replacing their SUAS (Small Unmanned Aircraft System) if they have a crash or it’s stolen, the public liability cover could be more important – especially if you’re flying commercially. Flock covers both aspects.
Flock aims to make obtaining the cover you need quick and easy via a smartphone app for iOS and Android.
Once the app is installed and opened on your phone you need to input a few essential details such as your name, whether you have a Permission of Commercial Operations (PfCO) and which drone you’re going to fly.
Flock has 130 drones in its database, but if you can’t find yours or you’ve built your own, you can give them a call to get it added.
Getting the Cover
The app will assume that you’re going to fly where you are, but you can change to a planned location either by dragging the active area to the correct location on the onscreen map or by inputting the location name.
Your planned flight time can be adjusted from between 1 and 8 hours while liability coverage limit can be set to between £1million to £10million.
The app then analyses the location-based data to generate a risk factor that takes into account things such as the weather, NOTAMS (Notice to Airmen), ground hazards, the proximity to buildings, schools and airports.
This risk factor is then used to calculate the premium that you need to pay for the insurance cover. Naturally, the higher the risk, the higher premium.
You can see the impact of this assessment in action by dragging the flight area on the map from an urban to a rural location.
Once you’re happy that you have organised the cover you need, tap ‘Insure From £X’ at the bottom of the screen, followed by ‘To Policy Confirmation’.
You’ll need to input your payment details the first you take out the insurance, but they can be saved for future use to speed things up.
Checking the Risks
Tapping on the Risk Factor icon towards the bottom left of the screen reveals the factors that have been taken into account to calculate the premium. This gives a useful summary of the weather conditions and the most significant hazards. However, it’s important to understand that not all the ground hazards are shown and that you should make a proper check before flying.
Flock is working to find a reliable data source so that it can provide pilots with more of the information they need to fly safely.
Flock’s prices start at £5.00 for a commercial flight and £6.00 for a pilot in training to obtain the PfCO. Another insurer quoted me £380 for annual cover to fly a Mavic Air, so £5 or £6 seems very reasonable if you’re not planning on flying more than once or twice a week.
The cover is for flying within a range of a radius of 500m away from the starting point on the map.
As I mentioned earlier, Flock will soon be launching cover for recreational drone pilots without a PfCO and prices are expected to be as low as £3.00 per 1 hour flight.
The premium goes up with the size of the drone and the risk. I found insuring an hour’s flight of a DJI Mavic Air in a rural area, for instance, would cost £6.00 but insuring the much bigger, heavier DJI Inspire 2 for the same time and location would cost £14.24.
As I’ve already mentioned, the calculated risk takes into account factors such as the location, time and weather conditions so these can also impact upon the price of the insurance.
Flock works with some drone training schools, including Aerial Motion Pictures, who can provide a referral code to give you a discount when flying in some areas. This discount comes into play in areas where the school is active or has special permission to fly, it won’t reduce the cost of flying in the lowest risk locations.
Making a Claim
So far I haven’t needed to make an insurance claim from Flock and I’m hoping to keep it that way. In the unfortunate event of having to make a claim, however, it can also be done through the app although you may have to provide additional photographs and in some cases send your drone for assessment.
The thought of dealing with insurance companies is rarely appealing and Flock makes it very easy to set-up cover for drone flights. The cost seems competitive and there’s the satisfaction that you’re only paying for cover when you fly. You also don’t need to pay for the maximum level of cover all the time if you don’t need it for every flight.
It’s especially helpful if you have a collection of drones to suit different tasks as you can switch between them easily.
I found the app very easy to use but there’s a bug that prevents you from upgrading from a pilot in training to having a PfCO. Flock is aware of this issue and is working to address it.