American Family Insurance will test the use of unmanned aircraft systems – commonly referred to as drones – to accelerate its response to catastrophes, after receiving approval for the testing from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The company expects to begin the testing this fall.
“When disasters strike, every moment counts when it comes to helping our customers recover,” said Paul Choi, claims national product director for American Family. “Drones could supply images to help us more quickly determine the extent of damage, providing information to deploy resources and prioritize our efforts on homes that are worst hit.”
FAA approval is required as federal law currently prohibits flying drones for commercial purposes. As of Aug. 2, the FAA had granted just over 1,000 exemptions for commercial use, including some to other insurance companies.
The Wisconsin-based property/casualty insurer is now a step closer to helping customers in situations when access to high-damage areas may be restricted for safety reasons for up to several days. Such a situation occurred last April when an EF-4 tornado ravaged the small community of Fairdale, Ill.
“In some situations, drones could provide us a true picture of what our customers are facing in a matter of hours, instead of days. That’s huge when people are looking for information, help and hope,” said Ryan Rist, American Family innovation director. “We’re excited about the potential.”
Rist said the first flights will be tested in Madison this fall and will evolve to testing in real-world scenarios.
Source: American Family
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