Drones and Insurance: How Unmanned Aircraft Systems Can Assist Insurers in Timely and Effectively Evaluating Property Damage Claims

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A typical claim for a homeowner will involve some type of damage to the property, which, in turn, prompts the insurer to perform an inspection of the insured property, so as to assess the cause and extent of the alleged damage. Depending on the nature of the claim, insurers may be able to have a solitary claims professional perform the inspection in a rather minimal amount of time, but that is not always the case. In particular, when an insured has claimed damage to the property’s roof, the claims professional may need assistance in gaining access to the roof—perhaps requiring a ladder assist—or otherwise will need to use caution in assessing the claim, which can be time consuming.

Enter drones. Unmanned aircraft systems—UAS or drones—can aid insurers in evaluating claims by carrying out tasks that have been traditionally performed by claims professionals. In the example noted above, involving roof damage, a drone can fly over the property, giving the claims professional a reliable view of the risk while also capturing data that can be stored and later used throughout the adjustment of the claim.

High quality images from the drone can assist the insurer in either developing a coverage determination or in assessing the extent of the damage and what repairs will actually be necessary. Instead of relying on photographs taken by a claims professional or engineer on the roof, which will often only reveal one line of sight and may take time for the viewer to determine the photographer’s orientation on the property, a UAS equipped with a high resolution camera can capture a multitude of images, while also producing a 3D model of the risk and capturing other information that may later prove useful.

Of course, the use of drones in the insurance industry is not only limited to assisting in the adjustment of roof damage claims. They can help to assess risks in the underwriting stage for any number of risks, and they can otherwise generally give insurers unrivaled access to information that would otherwise be inaccessible or cost prohibitive. At this time, the use of drones is generally subject to regulation by Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration. As the applications for the use of drones continues to expand, it will be interesting to see the extent that insurers rely on this developing technology and how that use is perceived by the market.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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