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Could drones be about to take off in the claims process?

At a glance

  • The use of drones in commercial business is increasing
  • Whilst there are numerous risks and safety concerns associated with the use of drones, they do allow for a more efficient way for businesses to survey
  • We take a look at how drones could be used during a claims process, and the benefits they could bring to the insurance industry.

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The use of drones in commercial businesses is increasing, as the number of commercial operators with a license to fly drones in the UK has risen from five in 2010 to over 4,500 in 2018.

Whilst there are numerous risks and safety concerns associated with the use of drones, not least the high profile case of drones grounding flights at Gatwick, in 2018 the speed, cost and sustainability of doing so can allow for a more efficient way for businesses to survey both vast areas and hard to reach places.

We take a look at how drones could be used during a claims process, and the benefits they could bring to the insurance industry.

Surveying a damaged area

A key use of drones is their ability to survey a large area in a short time. In cases of severe damage, for example a large scale fire at a warehouse or building, or damage from extreme weather events and natural disasters, drones are able to scan the area quickly in order to determine the damage caused. Recently, drones have been able to capture images of the damage caused by wildfires in California and across parts of Australia.

In addition, another common use of drones would be to inspect damaged roofs or tall buildings, areas which would be difficult, and costly, for individuals to reach. In doing this, images of damaged areas can be accessed quicker by an insurer, meaning progress of a claim can be much quicker.

While the ability to identify large-scale damage is one benefit of using drones, it is also in cases where damage is known to exist but in places humans can’t access easily, for example equipment breakdown such as boilers that drones also have benefits. With some equipment often being located in tight places, drones can be called upon to access and survey any potential damage that may occur, or may have occurred.

Helping with inspections

Similarly to surveying a damaged area, drones can also be used in the safety inspection of a number of ways. Inspecting roofs, buildings or large areas such as crops and hard to reach equipment are just a small number of ways that drones can provide benefits to insurers before any loss has occurred.

An advantage to being able to take so many high-quality pictures of an area at once for insurers is clear – not only will it reduce the time it takes for images to be taken, but it also presents significantly less risk than if an employed surveyor attempted to take them.

An added benefit of being able to take so many images of an area during inspection, is being able to revisit those pictures when a claim is made, especially in cases of suspected fraud. For example, being able to look back at a picture of a roof that has been claimed to have been damaged in strong winds, can help detect and deter fraudulent claims if there was already damage to a particular area.

As well as reducing cost and risk for an insurer, and in an age of speed and autonomy, being able to access images of damaged areas quickly through use of a drone can lead to claims being processed faster – leading to increased customer satisfaction.

The use of drones in insurance is increasing and there has been a shift in how companies are using technology to improve their processes. As mentioned in Insurance Journal, ‘the last two years suggests that drones and aerial-imagery will soon become commonplace after catastrophes, as well as in other areas for the insurance industry’.

Whilst the benefits of using drones in the insurance industry are clear to see, there are a number of issues that will need to be resolved before their use becomes mainstream. Regulations around their use, including how big they can be, the speed they can fly and the altitudes they can go, continue to be stumbling blocks, as well as the certification and training required to be able to use one proficiently. Cost is another issue, as high quality equipment is likely to cost siginificant money, and that is before the additional outlays on staff training, qualifications and transportation.

The benefits and risks of using drones for businesses are clear, and as mentioned previously there are a number of considerations business need to make in order for them to become commonplace.

Within the claims process, drones can provide insurers with a tool to settle claims quickly and to reduce risk for claims inspectors, meaning it is surely only a matter of time until their use becomes customary.

For more information on the topics discussed in this article, please get in touch with your local Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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