Drones and Insurance – A Tool; Not a Replacement.

Drones and Insurance – A Tool; Not a Replacement.
By Adrian Medley
Camco Claims

Today we are hearing more and more about the use of drones in the insurance industry, and in the last 5 years their presence has been increasing dramatically. People debate whether the drone will be replacing the adjuster, or will the adjuster need to learn to be efficient with a drone. Not many years ago it was computers being introduced into adjusting, and again it was questioned then will the computer replace the adjuster, or will the adjuster be required to be efficient with a computer? At that time, we hand wrote the estimates and then used our 3 pieces of adding tape to verify the totals of the estimate, taped on our polaroid photos, hand labeled them, and drew out diagrams by hand. Before the computer, we just needed pen, paper, adding machine, stapler, and camera to do office work. 
The use of drones is becoming more prevalent in our field, and this appears to be a great tool for the adjusters. I have found the drone to be of assistance in the investigation of claims to take great accident scene photos, useful in inspection of roofs, particularly when damage occurs to very high locations and in hard to access structures, and in documentation of damages for subrogation. Now drones equipped with thermal cameras are opening other areas where they can be used for additional inspection. At the same time, the drone has not been a replacement for completing a thorough inspection with an experienced/trained adjuster. Instead adjusters are learning to be efficient in using the drone. 
Overall, it appears the drone is going to become a great tool in our industry.
But to go back to the question is the drone going to replace the adjuster? Or instead, are adjusters going to have to adapt to being able to use a drone as a tool that will soon be commonplace as part of an adjuster’s tool kit. What I am finding is a drone pilot that is also an experienced adjuster is so much more beneficial than a drone pilot with no adjusting or inspection experience. 
Licensing, registration and insurance on the drone are important issues to address. Not having a license can pose a serious issue as the FAA requires persons using a drone for commercial use to have the drone license and registered. The FAA monitors the flights of drones in commercial zones. Should you be found to be operating a drone in certain flight zones without a proper license and registration, you will not be able to fly your drone, as they can shut down your drone remotely. Also, you may incur up to a $32,666.00 fine per incidence if you are found to be flying a drone for commercial use without a license. Insurance is important in the event something does go wrong during your flight and this can be purchased per flight at a minimal cost. Drone insurance covers the physical damage to the drone, and accidental damage or injury caused to others.
Adding drone capability to your tool belt represents a considerable investment as the cost to do so can range between $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 per drone. This includes the cost of the drone itself, all the accessories needed to operate the drone, insurance, and the license to fly a drone. The average purchase price of a drone ranges between $1,700.00 to $3,000.00, depending on the type and size of drone you purchase. Drones with thermal capabilities are much more costly. The accessories for drones can cost $500 to $1000, as you will need spare batteries, blades, carrying case, and other miscellaneous items. 
One of the biggest challenges with the drone that cannot be left out of the conversation is the constantly changing FAA requirements. As more and more drones take to the skies, the FAA is making additional rules and requiring more licensing and regulation of use. Prior to August, 2016, no license was required to fly a drone. But in August, 2016, the FAA instituted the requirement that every drone pilot obtain a Part 107 license to legally operate a drone for commercial use. 
The bottom line is it appears drones are here to stay as more and more adjusters will be trained in their use. There will be changes coming in the cost of drones as the technology evolves, regulations of drones, and the capabilities of the drone. The drones appear to be a great tool not only in the investigation of insurance claims, but by many other trades. It will be important to be trained and licensed, and to keep up with changing regulations, to make sure we are in compliance while flying a drone.

If you would like more information regarding this subject, please contact Mr. Medley at (706) 969-9266 or email him directly at Adrian@Camco.Claims.