Drone Inspection Programs Offer Safety, Cost Saving Benefits

By Denise Johnson | June 5, 2018

Insurers are increasingly using drones to inspect property damage, according to Cory Shelton, head of UAV Technology at Geomni, a Verisk business. In a recent interview with Claims Journal, he explained the pros and cons of using drones for property inspections as well as what insurers need to consider in evaluating an in-house program versus a third party drone service provider.

Replacing ladder-assist in certain property inspections has improved safety for claims adjusters, he said.

“It’s really giving the adjuster the ability to look at the roof, without ever having to get on the roof,” Shelton said. “The ability to put a machine on the roof or above the roof really creates a safer ecosystem for inspecting roof damage,”

One important consideration is that with any new tool, there is a learning curve for adjusters and insurers. It takes time, he said, to integrate it into existing workflows.

“Overall, I think the benefits: the safety, the speed and the accuracy that are provided by a drone far outweigh the learning curve or any of the negatives,” said Shelton.

For the most part, drones can be used for a wide variety of property inspections, said Shelton. In the commercial space, a limitation in the use of drones may arise when there is a need to see what’s underneath in a multi-layer roof or a core sample may need to be taken.

Insurers interested in implementing a drone program must consider whether to create an in-house program versus using a third-party drone service provider. An in-house program, said Shelton, will include startup costs for equipment, training pilots and insurance.

Outsourcing to a third-party drone service provider – what he called an “Uber for drones” – is relatively easy and can be put into action quickly. The downside is there is a higher cost per transaction, he said, somewhere between $200-300 per inspection.

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