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Marketplace Morning Report

Insurance companies get FAA approval to use drones

Molly Wood Apr 20, 2015
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More drones could be coming to a neighborhood near you, and they’ll be from your insurance company.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved several insurers to use drones to assess property damage. Soon our blue skies might be dotted with hundreds of little drones.

Sound like science fiction? It’s not.

“In light of the proposed new regulations from the FAA that came out a few weeks ago, there [are] going to be a lot more commercial agencies using drones for all kinds of things from insurance assessments to agriculture to fire rescue,” says Matt Sloane, president of Atlanta Drone Consultants. Part of that, Sloane says, is because they’re so useful.

“What drones really offer is the ability to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on, so that doesn’t help in every industry,” he says. “But certainly for things like insurance assessments where you fly something like this just a hundred feet over a damage scene to do an assessment, you really get a different view of what’s going on.”

During natural disasters helicopters are typically used to assess damage, but they can cost $1,000 an hour and put people’s lives in jeopardy, Sloane says.

That’s why insurance companies like State Farm are so interested in drones.

The insurer was the first to get FAA approval to use unmanned aircrafts for damage assessment.

“If we can send a drone to look over at our customer’s house and determine, ‘Okay they have significant damage there,’” says Justin Tomczak, the Georgia spokesperson for State Farm. “That information could be relayed to their agent  and we can call [our client] and say I noticed your house has significant damage, we’re cutting you a check right now to cover your immediate expenses that you may have.”

If you’re worried about all those little devices recording you, Matt Sloane says you might just have to get used it.

“Although I will say most of them don’t have cameras with the ability to zoom so it’s not going to be a sort of satellite situation from a 1,000 feet you could zoom in and see every little detail,” says Sloane. “You really need to get a lot closer with a drone to be able to see a detailed image.”

The FAA currently has a public comment period open to address concerns; it ends on April 24.

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