The insurance industry is in the process of getting a major overhaul. Claim adjusters now have a much more efficient way of assessing damages or losses at accident sites. Thanks to the bird’s eye view from drone cameras, adjusters are able to process claims much more quickly, especially after natural disasters where sites may be dangerous or difficult to access on foot before a certain waiting period. While drones and insurance companies are still in the process of getting acquainted with one another, they will have a long and bright future together.
American Family Insurance has a small group of claims adjusters trained to operate drones from the screens of their cell phones. The program is still in what Taylor Horsager, UAV chief pilot and instructor, calls the “proof of concept” phase, where all of the kinks in the technology and regulations are ironed out before the program goes mainstream. Claims adjusters are figuring out how to efficiently collect the data they need, yet still follow the guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still American Family Insurance recognizes that it is not only helpful for those covered to get claims paid earlier, but also that it saves the company a great deal of money. The insurer has future plans to expand its use of drones and eventually integrate the technology into the carriers’ regular claims process.
Other insurance companies are taking note that drones can save another valuable resource – time. After a tragic natural disaster such as a hurricane, a quick response time can dramatically effect the outcome. After Hurricane Harvey, drones were used to assess flooded areas, allowing boats to focus their efforts on the areas where their help was needed most. The images and videos from the drone cameras were also used to create a map to help the boats with search and rescue missions.
However, many insurers do not want to wait until disaster strikes to deploy their drones. Beverly Adams, the head of Catastrophe Planning and Response for Guy Carpenter, believes that drones are an amazing tool that can also be used during the risk assessment process. They literally give carriers a much clearer picture of what their coverage needs might be. Many disaster plans include things like evacuation routes or procedures, locations of emergency supplies, or finding ways to communicate with family and share emergency contact information. Insurance is not typically part of the equation, but drones provide a gateway for the industry to be included in disaster plans. After all, you can’t always predict the weather, but the aftermath of a terrible disaster is much less devastating if you are prepared.
Firms such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) recognize another growing market – with drones now being used by many different types of businesses, there is a need for the drones themselves to be insured. AOPA began with only one carrier offering two types of policies for drones, but this has expanded to five carriers and a broad range of policy types for a wide variety of operations. Underwriters continue to expand policies as more carriers continue to offer drone insurance to the ever-increasing number of pilots.
While the insurance industry has its own methods and processes that have withstood the test of time, insurers are wisely not missing out on the opportunity to use this cool, new technology to make things better for themselves and for those they protect. Drones are definitely here to stay, and it will be really exciting to see all of the ways that the relationship between operators and insurers grow over the next few years.