Recently, I got to witness something pretty cool. Our Headquarters Claims department contracted with a company to lease a drone to use for inspections and claims. Kyle Mathews and Justin Anderson, two of our claims technology specialists, participated in a training exercise so they can fly the drone on their own in the future. The vendor walked them through all the steps to ensure a safe flight.
Here are a few of the exercises the pilots go through before every flight:
- Create a safe “fence.” The pilot looks at a satellite image of their location and identifies a border – or fence – around the property. The drone will not fly over or photograph past the fence, which protects others’ privacy.
- Program the flight path. The pilot traces the area of the building it would like the drone to photograph. The drone determines the best, most efficient flight pattern.
- Set the drone up and watch it fly. This is the fun part – to watch it work. The pilot watches the drone’s progress on an iPad® linked to the drone.
- Receive a report. After each flight, the pilot downloads a report containing measurements and images collected by the drone.
We’ve started to use drones in our Field Claims and Loss Control departments to help us gather information efficiently.
I’ll walk through one example: a hail damage claim.
Typically, the field claims representative will go to the policyholder’s property and use a ladder to reach the roof to survey and measure the damage. After inspection, our field claims representative estimates the damage and provides the policyholder with payment.
Use of a drone makes the process faster, safer and more cost-effective. The entire process of setting up the drone, establishing the flight path and creating an estimate can take less than 30 minutes – and our Field Claims associates remain safe on the ground. The drone can also notice anomalies in roofs to document damage that is difficult to see with the human eye.
Associates are still in training. The goal is to have a certified pilot and a drone on every storm team to be able to quickly survey damage and pay claims for our policyholders.