Insurance Drones: Using Modern Technology to Capture Tough-to-Obtain Data


By: Wayne S. Melnick
Last year, I blogged on the possible legal and insurance ramifications of law enforcement drone usage.  The topic of drone-usage in the insurance world again came to the forefront of news when last week USAA asked the Federal Aviation Administration for permission to test drone aircraft for use in future claims assessments.
According to this article, the San Antonio-based insurance company who specializes in coverage for military families “wants to begin testing small, unmanned aircraft systems that can record data over areas that have been damaged as the result of a natural disaster.”  According to Alan Krapf, president of USAA’s property and casualty insurance group, “We’re constantly seeking ways to better serve our members, especially during catastrophes, when getting into neighborhoods immediately after can be dangerous to human life, and applying new technologies is one way we can do that.”
The use of the drones is obvious in that not only could the drones be used to survey large areas affected by natural disaster, but it could also to allow the viewing of otherwise hard to get to areas – such as viewing rooftops suffering hail damage or other property damage claims.  USAA says it has teamed up with Texas A&M University in School Station and Robotocists With no Borders to study how to use drones for its insurance organization.  According to Kathleen Swain, USAA employees underwriter and FAA-rated business pilot and flight instructor, quoted in this article, “We believe this investigation can lead to safer, quicker and far more economical claims service for our members and their communities.  This research could lead to market breakthroughs that assist make an very hard time for individuals a minor simpler.”
The use of drones continues to be a new frontier in insurance examination.  How much expansion will be allowed is, at least for the time-being, subject to FAA approval.  It is expected that as new and creative uses for this tool becomes available, that insurers will continue to seek further expansion of drones use in investigating claims.