Drones and their use in property insurance

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or drones as they are more commonly referred to, continue to make headlines in the UK for the wrong reasons such as being used to fly contraband into prisons or narrowly missing commercial aircraft!

The Government has recently published its consultation on the safe usage of drones.  The proposed legislation, which is due to be finalised later in the year, is set to place new responsibilities on owners of drones weighing 250g or more.  The new rules will attempt to tighten up safety around airports and will include mandatory registration by the user and the requirement to sit safety awareness tests to ensure they understand UK safety, security and privacy regulations.   A proper regulatory framework for the safe use of drones brings with it opportunities for the insurance industry.  In the US, insurance is already the fourth largest market for drones and drones are set to play an increasing role in the insurance cycle in the UK.

Drones can offer a number of advantages and opportunities for property insurers including surveying risky, hard to reach areas and their ability to produce high quality imagery quickly and economically.

Areas where property insurers can exploit the use of drones include:

  1. Claims inspections

One of the most common uses for drones by insurers in the US is conducting roof inspections. Roofs are notoriously difficult and hazardous to inspect and can be dangerous, particularly if a roof has suffered damage following a fire or a storm.  Drones remove the need for a loss adjuster to go out on site and they are able to capture high-resolution images of the entire area, including parts of the structure that wouldn’t necessarily be accessible to a human.

Drones can also be used to speed up the claims process.  A drone can survey a property quickly and accurately. The footage can then be reviewed, the damage assessed, and the claim processed, thereby reducing claims settlement time and improving customer experience.

  1. Post-Event surveying

Drones could be used to inspect areas following a major event like a flood or storm.   They are already being used in America in relation to wildfires where the photos of the damage are taken and then cross-referenced with risk modelling and underwriting information.

Drones can access areas that might be dangerous for loss adjusters to enter and could be employed quicker than mobilising a team of loss adjusters.

  1. Fraud Monitoring

Drones could also be used to deter insurance fraud.  For instance, an insurer could send a drone to take photos of an accident scene. It could then use the data collected to verify details submitted by the insured in a claim.

There is no doubt there is plenty of scope for the use of drones within property insurance.   However, a regulatory framework needs to be in place first so that concerns in relation to safety and privacy can be addressed.