American insurance giant State Farm is flying into uncharted skies today after the company received the first-ever national drone-flight waiver granted to a corporation by the FAA.
The waiver will allow State Farm to fly drones over people and beyond visual line of sight through November 2022.
Last year, the FAA granted a similar – albeit temporary – waiver to deploy UAS in four states affected by Hurricane Florence, allowing the company to assess damage and provide faster claims processing for victims of the storm.
“It’s been a team effort to make drone technology a reality,” says Senior Vice President for Property and Casualty Claims Robert Yi. “The waiver will provide our claims specialists with another way to efficiently help customers. We can use drones to assess on-the-ground damage and deploy resources. This is a huge win for our customers and demonstrates we’re recognized as a leader in drone technology.”
State Farm launched its drone program two years ago, collaborating with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech on drone safety research.
“There are many possibilities for the use of drones, but FAA regulators need to be assured that operations can be conducted safely” said Partnership director Mark Blanks.
“State Farm had a compelling proposal for how drones could improve their customer experience and an unwavering commitment to safety. MAAP had the operational expertise and the research experience to help them navigate the approval process and collect supporting data. This success shows how powerful it can be when industry and academia collaborate to break new ground.”
Seeing a potential competitive edge, insurers worldwide have upped investment in drone technology:
- New Jersey-based Everest Insurance has partnered with drone-analytics provider Airware, allowing the insurer to optimize and expedite claims during hurricane season via aerial data investigation.
- In 2016, insurance giants Allstate and Travelers deployed several drones over parts of South Carolina and Georgia in the wake of Hurricane Matthew to assess damage, expediting claims for stricken policyholders more rapidly. Allstate’s quadcopters can capture 4K-resolution images and the company says this allows adjusters to zoom in for extreme detail on any individual shingle on a roof or a crack in a building. Travelers launched a UAV training program and deployed 60 FAA-certified adjusters to pilot drones that year alone.