Using drones for claims. Drone-based solutions are allowing carriers to resolve claims more quickly while increasing customer satisfaction. (Photo: Shutterstock)

There has been extensive coverage of drone use in the insurance industry over the past few years, with promises of faster claims cycles, reduced loss adjustment expenses and improved accuracy. Yet, while most carriers have evaluated or even piloted drone programs to bring efficiency to their claims operations, only a few have progressed into a production-scale program. The situation is understandable. Insurance is a highly regulated industry with processes in place to avoid regulatory complications or impacts to well-understood economic models for claims resolution.

What many in the industry are unaware of is how seamlessly drone-based analytics can integrate into and enhance existing work approaches. Imagine being able to more rapidly decline or accept claims based on accurate imagery and analysis. The positive economic impact is significant.

When carriers quantify the time and costs of going out to a property, having an inspector climb up onto a roof and manually examine and photograph it, and then input that data into a system of record, the value of automatically-captured drone-based aerial intelligence becomes clearer. With a drone-based analytics solution, the carrier is able to resolve claims rapidly, which also translates into increased customer satisfaction, retention and renewals.

The value of proactive assessment

Another benefit carriers are realizing with drones is the value of proactive inspections, especially for high-value commercial and residential properties. Drones, particularly those equipped with thermal inspection capabilities, are able to find early-stage leaks, unseen damage to roof membranes, or damage to the mechanical systems on roofs. Addressing these issues can literally save carriers millions of dollars yearly.

Some insurers find it tempting to consider an in-house-developed drone solution — one that involves cobbling together off-the-shelf drones with third-party software and service providers. Putting the resources and personnel together to create and scale an in-house drone program is a distraction few have the luxury to pursue.

A drone without an underlying analytics platform isn’t much more than a flying camera. It does not deliver the actionable details required to credibly make claims decisions. It is not much different from someone manually inspecting a roof, taking their own photos, taking the SD card out, and cutting-and-pasting the photos into a carrier’s system of record. Further, maintaining drone hardware and IT infrastructure is incredibly costly and time-consuming.

A drone-based aerial intelligence system that involves fully autonomous flights can address these issues. The vendors behind these systems know insurance adjusters are not professional drone pilots — they do not have to manually fly the drones with joysticks. With these systems, the drones fly all on their own, using a simple tablet app to create the flight plan, and deliver an automated data processing workflow.

Drones are still a new frontier for insurers, and it is important to select a vendor with deep industry knowledge. Further, new subscription-based models provide a fixed-cost investment versus purchasing depreciating drones that carriers have to repair or replace themselves. Subscriptions provide a solution that is always being enhanced and offer overnight replacement of any damaged hardware.

Ultimately, a carrier’s choice of drone-inspection solution is about ensuring they are delivering the best customer experience possible.

Paul Ross (paul.ross@kespry.com) is the vice-president of marketing at Kespry, a company that provides a drone-based aerial intelligence platform for the insurance industry.

Related: Who’s liable in a drone crash?