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Drones: time and money-saving allies for insurance companies

Why would an expert risk climbing onto a roof to assess storm damage, if a camera drone can do an aerial inspection more quickly and comprehensively? This same reasoning can be applied to a number of insurers’ daily activities, and it is only a matter of time until drones become their close allies. The insurance industry is one of the first to pioneer using drones for commercial purposes, and it has been easy to integrate the technology into the sector.

Forecasts from US aviation authorities for the 2018-2038 period foresee insurance accounting for 4% of drone use in the country. But although the use of drones is now a reality for many insurance companies, there’s still a long way to go: using them professionally relies on there being a sufficient number of professional and qualified pilots to fly over different types of spaces and capture different images.

Drones are a serious ally in two key dimensions of insurance companies’ work: risk assessment and loss adjustment reports. They have brought a revolution to the visual inspections that both entail, especially when the scope, height, or geographical features make access difficult and make it harder to be precise with calculations. When it comes to quarries and mines, farms, residential areas, construction and building repairs, large infrastructures such as dams and power grids, and assessing damages caused by large-scale natural disasters, drones are essential.

Dron View - insur_space by MAPFRE

Using drones for these visual inspections saves time and money, and avoids work-related accidents among insurance experts. And they’ve also revealed themselves to be key allies in a third area: fraud prevention. Thanks to drones, it’ is easy to properly survey a property (land, houses, factories, etc.) to check that it has been designated the right use, and whether the damages being claimed for are indeed right. Taking aerial shots can even help to check the true causes of an accident.

Consultant Deloitte estimates that the use of drones can save the insurance industry billions per year, but not without warning: in order to realise their true potential we first need to tackle a series of “regulatory, technological, and commercial challenges”. One of these challenges is knowing exactly how to manage the enormous quantity of data drones can capture, and what purpose it should be used for. Should it be stored? For how long? What benefits can insurance companies tap into from this data, beyond the accident itself or one-off risk assessments?

On the other hand, given that drones mean data can be interpreted in real time – images can be watched at the same time as them being captured on the camera – does this mean timings for other insurance processes need to be adjusted?

An alliance with startups could be, at present, the most effective strategy for generating technological resources and experimental solutions, to help later develop new management models supported by drone use. Similarly, participating in accelerators and financing insurtech projects can no doubt contribute to tapping into the maximum potential of this technology, in as little time as possible.