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Insurance Adjusts to Drone Technology

Collecting evidence for an insurance claim can be difficult and even dangerous. Insurance adjusters are often handed the challenging assignment of investigating property claims in the aftermath of calamitous events including fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Many professional adjusters are turning to drones to assist with evidence collection in the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado or while inspecting a building that was damaged due to a fire. Claims adjusters can improve both the safety and quality of work by effectively flying a drone equipped with a quality camera.

roof damage

A severely damaged roof photographed with a drone.

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), which are also known as drones, are becoming increasingly popular among claims adjusters because the technology improves the technology’s ability to safely get photographs or videos that are required during an inspection. For instance, drones can provide easy access to a roof that has been damaged by hail and can produce images with finite detail. An insurance adjuster can pilot a drone remotely, which reduces the need to take unnecessary safety risks. Drones have the capability to take aerial photos or videos, in 4K HD quality, of areas that are not easily accessible using conventional methods.

Insurance adjusters who have already implemented drones into their investigations have reported inspections take less time when using drones. The use of drones can also be less intrusive on customers. According to Gary Sullivan of FAA-approved Erie Insurance, “What’s been interesting is that we have not found objection coming from out policyholders. Our policy holders have been very open with us utilizing this technology to assist them with their claims.”

Guidelines and Regulations

Although there are a wide range of benefits drones can offer insurance adjusters, aspiring pilots must take steps to achieve compliance with strict Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and regulations. The FAA announced updated regulations, titled Part 107, in June. The new rules will potentially open the door to more users, but still make the process of obtaining legal compliance challenging. Individuals who wish to fly drones for non-recreational purposes must earn a Remote Pilot Certification, effectively a pilot’s license, from the FAA. The FAA grants pilot’s licenses to individuals upon their completion of an Aeronautical Knowledge Test with a passing grade. The exam is challenging and requires would-be pilots to have a level of understanding of aviation terms and practices similar to that of commercial airline pilots.

Insurance Companies Currently Using Drones

Prior to the the Part 107 regulatory update, there were four insurance companies approved by the FAA to use drones for insurance adjustment claims, which include the American International Group Inc. (AIG), Erie Insurance Group, State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance Company, and United Services Automobile Association (USAA).

“The potential use of unmanned aerial systems provides us one more innovative tool to help State Farm customers recover from the unexpected as quickly and efficiently as possible.”Wensley Herbert
In March, State Farm was the first insurance company to receive FAA approval to use drones for commercial use. State Farm has planned to use drones to assess possible flood damage during claims investigations as well as responding to natural disasters. According to operations vice president-claims, Wensley Herbert, “The potential use of unmanned aerial systems provides us one more innovative tool to help State Farm customers recover from the unexpected as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

AIG was granted approval from the FAA to use drones to conduct inspections for risk assessment, risk management, loss control, and surety for customers. AIG is also permitted to start a research and development program that will look for new and innovate ways to use drones.

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About the Author

Adam Shore

Adam is a Central Florida alum who recently left the Orlando area to relocate to Denver, where he enjoys shooting aerial photography of the Rocky Mountains. And to ski. He is a member of the AMA and was been a drone photographer since the early days of the industry. Follow him @dronegenuity.