One federal law relevant to drones is one that bans flying above stadiums from one hour before or after an NFL, MLB or NCAA event. A case in point is an incident at a University of Wisconsin football game where a drone was spotted hovering above the student section late in the game . If the drone owner in that situation injured someone and they were sued, the insurance company likely would not defend them since they were breaking laws set by the FAA. Other laws include those that call for not flying near airports or military bases, or near events like wildfires.

State laws are more explicit in what they will and will not permit for drones. Texas for example has defined explicitly lawful and unlawful uses for drones. Overall, 43 states have enacted or pending legislation involving drones. Still, that leaves a few states with no laws at all the govern drones, and only 13 of those 43 states have laws that govern intrusions into privacy involving the craft.

Relying on the laws to sort out the issue could work if drone flying was an obscure form of transport. However, with the prospect  of 7.1 million drone flyers by 2025 by one estimate, conducting a legal battle each time a drone hurts someone or spies on them will create undue legal chaos and ambiguity.

What Needs to Be Done

To reduce the ambiguity surrounding drone liability, insurance companies need to either include clearer language within their policies, or offer additional insurance products for drone owners.

As boats and golf carts have clear provisions, drones should be given comparable treatment. Insurers can either choose not to not cover drones larger than a certain size–similarly to how they won’t insure homeowners with certain breeds of dogs. Certain drones can be as heavy as 55 pounds, while others as small a couple pounds–the former having a much greater potential to cause serious injury. They can also explicitly say they won’t take any case involving a drone with a camera, to avoid the ambiguity surrounding privacy laws.

Another route may be to introduce an “endorsement” for drones, which are add-ons to your main policy that gives you more coverage for a certain properties or events . Just as companies offer endorsements for sewage backup and jewelry, customers could purchase the endorsement the gives them broader liability coverage when it comes to their drones.

Of course, changing insurance policies and adding new products cannot be done at the wave of a hand. It can take years to actually fully implement changes across all fifty states. The important thing is the insurers recognize the growing threat, and are prepared when even more drones buzz America’s skies in the years to come.