Like many disruptive technologies, drones were initially thought of as anything from an amusing diversion to an annoying threat to the status quo. Now, however, drones are being talked about as possibly the insurance industry’s next game changer. A lot of that talk centers on a drone’s ability to help take the guesswork out of claims processing or risk assessments. For example, a property adjuster or loss control consultant could use a drone to capture details of a location or building, and/or obtain useful insights. Drones could also be deployed to enable faster and more effective resolution of claims during catastrophes.
Wondering how something with a short battery life can really be a game changer for companies that need more than just a few minutes of aerial photos or video? Enter tethered drones. These specialty drones use ultra strong-but-lightweight cables connected to the ground to provide power, a data link and a physical restraint. That gives them distinct advantages over their free-flying cousins, including hours-long flight times and fast data transmission. By having a drone tethered to an object or building, its movement is automatically restricted and it virtually eliminates much of the need of a trained operator to pilot it. The possibilities for a variety of drone uses continue.
New applications for drones are taking flight every day across industries – and their numbers are rapidly increasing. At the beginning of 2015, only about one dozen companies were approved to operate drones commercially in the United States. By August, the FAA reported having approved more than 1,000 applications from companies seeking to operate commercial drones. A growing ecosystem of drone software and hardware vendors is already catering to a long list of clients in agriculture, land management, energy, and construction. The numbers indicate a more diverse adoption of drone technology than what was originally envisioned. Many of the vendors are smaller private companies and startups.
Part of the reason for the drastic increase in applications may be due to the FAA loosening certain aspects of its commercial drone regulations to allow approved companies greater flexibility in how they use commercial drones. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) recently examined the first 500 commercial drone permits issued by the FAA and found exemptions – those specifically designed for commercial drone operators, such as not needing a pilot’s license – spanned 20 major industries across 48 U.S. states. Agriculture accounted for 106 of the first 500 commercial exemptions, while construction accounted for 74, followed by utility inspection (69) and film and television (65). Two broad categories encompass most of the commercial drone industry in the country: general aerial surveying (128) and general aerial photography (125).
Technological innovations like drones hold a world of promise. For more information about drones, visit the Know Before You Fly link from the FAA’s website.
Generally, drones are not covered in standard General Liability policies. Drone coverage options can be discussed with your Amerisure marketing underwriter.