Whether insurance companies are inspecting a new building or investigating an insurance claim, it’s important to capture accurate data quickly. Site mapping with drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), is a powerful new tool for inspection — allowing an insurance company to safely and easily capture a high-resolution aerial view of a site in minutes.
Like many businesses nowadays, insurance companies are beginning to use drones in their day-to-day operations. Insurers began experimenting with drones about five years ago in the United States and found them useful for adjusting property claims. Since the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), released the drone regulations in 2015, drones have been used commercially and insurance companies have not missed that opportunity. Soon drones may be as ubiquitous at insurance companies as computers and cell phones.
Drones have certain features that make them especially useful to insurers. For one thing, they are small, easy to maneuver, and don’t require an airport runway for launching. Thus, they are much cheaper to use than manned aircraft. Secondly, drones don’t require an on-board pilot, so they can travel to places that are unsafe for humans. Thirdly, drones move faster than humans. They can travel more quickly over a large geographic area than human “feet on the ground.”
Here are some of the purposes for which insurers are using or may use drones:
- Insurance Inspections. One use for drones is to conduct property insurance inspections. Drones are particularly useful if the insured property is extensive or difficult to reach. For example, a crop insurer might use a drone to inspect a farmer’s crops. Certain issues may be easier to spot from the air than from the ground. A drone’s camera can be equipped with special lenses to detect problems that aren’t visible to the human eye.
- Roof Damage Inspections. One of the most common uses for drones by insurers is rooftop inspections. Roofs are notoriously difficult and hazardous to inspect. An inspection is particularly dangerous if a roof is steep or has suffered fire damage. Rather than climb onto the roof to take pictures, a drone equipped with a camera can be used. Cameras used on drones can capture very detailed images. Moreover, a drone can photograph the entire roof, including parts of the structure that aren’t accessible to a human.
- Other Damage Inspections. Drones are useful for inspecting damage to large structures, such as warehouses.
- Post Disaster Claims Inspections. Drones are valuable for inspecting areas affected by a major disaster, such as a flood or earthquake. Access to a disaster area may be restricted by civil authorities for several days. Even if access isn’t restricted, the area may be too dangerous for adjusters to enter. Adjusters can use camera-equipped drones to capture still photos or videos of damaged property. These photos may be used to process claims.
- Fraud Monitoring. Drones may also be used to deter insurance fraud. When a storm or other event occurs, some policyholders file claims for damage that existed before the event took place. Insurers can disprove some claims by comparing drone camera images taken before the event with those taken after it has occurred.
- Integration With Other Technology. The images and other data insurers collect with drones are especially valuable when combined with other technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI). Insurers are using AI to analyze the data, assess the damage, and calculate repair costs.