What changes to drone regulation really mean for our sector …

What changes to drone regulation really mean for our sector …

It’s been a long time coming but finally, the new drone regulations that will bring the UK and EU countries in line with each other, came into force on the 1st January this year.

While this is a welcome change to the regulations and shows how far the industry has come in such a short space of time, as is often the case with regulations, the devil is in the detail.

The new regulations do away with the distinction between commercial pilots and hobbyists and instead focus on the type of drone used and defining what the flight risks are. Under the old rules, professional drone operators such as Iprosurv, had to have something called Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) but that will be replaced with an Operational Authorisation.

The new regulations are broken down into three distinct categories, open, specific and certified, all of which have varying pilot competency requirements. I could go into all the detail of the regulations here but there are better qualified people to explain them and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website is a good place to start for my fellow regulation nerds.

What I do want to dig into and hopefully provide some clarity around is the perception that these new rules blur the boundaries a between commercial providers and hobbyists. There is a perception that once the new rules are in place, anyone with a drone can get it registered, apply for their A2 Certificate of Competence, complete the online training course and sally forth into the commercial realm.

Strictly speaking, they could but anyone considering that or considering hiring such an operator to conduct an aerial drone survey, needs to be aware of the limitations that still apply. For example, under the transitional arrangements, a drone pilot operating under the minimum A2 Certificate of Competence must maintain a horizontal distance of at least 50 metres from any uninvolved individual or occupied building, severely limiting the drone’s scope and effectiveness.

In addition, there are limitations of the type of drone such operators could use to conduct drone inspections. Under an A2 certificate, the drone must weigh less than 4kg which limits the amount and nature of any equipment it can carry, again, limiting its effectiveness.

So, from my perspective, the idea that these rule changes are going to revolutionise and open up the commercial drone market are a little wide of the mark. These changes are undoubtedly important – they bring a much-needed focus on safety and professionalism to our sector which will, in time, normalise the use of drones in public and commercial life.

Rebecca Jones, co-founder and CEO of Iprosurv

Which is a great thing as the more we do to introduce drones to society in a safe and controlled way, the more everyone will feel the benefits they can bring. But it is incumbent upon everyone operating in the drone sector and those companies who use our services, to be very clear about what these new regulations mean.

For me, it is absolutely clear that the man (or woman) on the street won’t suddenly be able to replicate what we have been doing at Iprosurv over the last six years. Why? There are many reasons but chief among them are:

  • We have worked hard to become a key stakeholder with the CAA and to secure operational exemptions that a single operator can’t replicate
  • The limitations around line of sight and distance to individuals or occupied buildings really limits the operational capabilities of the pilot
  • The kind of lightweight drones that can operate under an open category A2 certificate, are limited in terms of the drone platforms they can utilise
  • Lighter drones are also much more susceptible to changes in the weather and more vulnerable to mid-flight drift in stronger winds
  • Data security, when storing or transferring the outputs of a flight, cannot be guaranteed by a single operator in the same way it can by an established, professional firm like Iprosurv
  • Everyone in Iprosurv’s network of pilots has to undergo rigorous training and testing, the kind of education that cannot be replicated by an online questionnaire

These are just a few of the considerations any company thinking about using drones must take into account, whether they are outsourcing that activity or setting up in house. Drones are a complicated piece of kit and are now controlled by increasingly complicated regulations and it will take some time for the market to bed them in.

But the responsibility for making these regulations work doesn’t just lie with the drone community. Anyone who engages with drones on a commercial basis also has, I believe, a responsibility to ensure that a misinterpretation of the rules doesn’t result in the kind of incident they are specifically designed to avoid. No company wants to be at the centre of another Gatwick incident.

So, while the rule changes are a hugely positive step forward for anyone cheerleading the development of drones, we need to be careful that the enthusiasm for this opening up, doesn’t inadvertently lead to the kind of incident that puts drones (and a brand’s reputation) in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

If you are considering engaging a third party to access drone technology, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I engaging with an established, professional drone operator with the relevant qualifications, authorisations and insurance?
  • Can they do what I need them to do while staying within the rules and maintaining public safety?
  • Can they keep me and my customers’ data secure immediately after collection and during any transfer?

If you can’t satisfy yourself of even these three most basic questions, you have to ask yourself if you are willing to risk compromising public safety, the reputation of your firm and the further development of drone technology.

Rebecca Jones is the co-founder and CEO of drone inspection specialists, Iprosurv

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What next for drones and Iprosurv? Our clients will always guide us …

When we set up Iprosurv back in 2014, the number one priority was to convince the industry that drones in insurance were the future and that they had a huge role to play in claims and risk management. We believed that then just as much as we do today.

And as we come to the end of our sixth year, I find myself thinking (tentatively), that in the last year the market has finally had its eyes well and truly opened to the possibilities presented by tech and by extension, drones.

In those early days when Shane and I first set out, it was a hard slog convincing insurers and adjusters that there was a better, cheaper way for them to manage their claims using drones to conduct aerial surveys. But a brave few souls took the leap (you know who you are!) and when they did, their peers saw what was possible and more and more have turned to drones for the proven cost and time savings. 

So much so, that drones are now a regular point of discussion in the claims and risk management community and they have recently become part of the general market discourse in the trade press. 

We are nowhere near full adoption of unmanned aerial vehicles yet, but the momentum is there – it’s only a matter of time before every insurer and loss adjuster is using drones as standard. And I’m not shy to admit that this gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. To imagine a different way of doing things and then to see that actually take place … it’s something else. 

But even though I was sure drones could make a big difference in insurance, I am still constantly surprised at the applications businesses find for them and the inspections our pilots undertake.  

We always knew drones were perfect to assess the scale and impact of a major flood with their ability to get a bird’s eye view of a landscape. But we hadn’t considered that they could be used by farmers to assess crop damage by taking the colour temperature of their crops. 

We hadn’t considered that a water supply firm would want to use drone mapping software to detect leaks in a water pipe rather than dig up the landscape in a time-consuming and expensive search. 

We hadn’t considered that a security firm would ask us to survey the security measures at a port facility to help them identify weaknesses in that security. 

And we hadn’t expected to be called in by the emergency services to provide crucial support in search and rescue operations. 

But all of these instructions and more have come in this year – from statutory LOLER inspections to thermal renewables for hospital refurbishments to site surveillance in support of a criminal prosecution of fly-tippers. All of these have opened our minds to the huge array of potential applications for drone technology.

The interesting thing is, other than using different types of cameras (LIDAR, thermal, photogrammetry) and tailoring the pilot skill with the job, Iprosurv hasn’t actually moved far from our core offering – collecting, translating and delivering data to our clients in a fast, cost-effective and completely secure way. 

What is different is the mindset of our clients and the profile of our new clients. It feels like we are well beyond the first hurdle of introducing drones to the commercial world and are now faced with a different challenge – managing the demand and adapting our skills to those new demands. 

But the flexibility of drones actually makes that side of things quite straightforward – whatever the request, I can pretty much guarantee that we have a pilot and the equipment to meet it. Just last week we were instructed by an insurer on a business interruption claim and using our imagery and data, the insurer was able to save over £1m by instructing us for less than a thousand pounds. This case, coming in at the end of a hectic year, pretty much encapsulates what drones can do for the insurance industry.

So, where next for Iprosurv and drones after a momentously challenging and rewarding year? Based on what we expected compared to our experience today, I wouldn’t dare hazard a guess but what is certain that our ever curious and creative clients will continue to find more uses for drones and continue to surprise the Iprosurv team in the process. 

Whether you are a current or a future client or just an interested observer, I hope you all manage to experience some kind of festive joy during a very different festive season and that when we all return after the break, we will see some light at the end of an often very dark tunnel.

Happy New Year everyone!

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Drones, data and digital: the changing face of farming

Our traditional view of farming owes more to childhood tales than reality with the harvesting of data almost as important as the harvesting of crops. Greg Emerick, co-founder of Sentera, an agriculture mapping software firm, tells Iprosurv how the future of farming is digital and how Sentera and Iprosurv are bringing that future to UK farming.

Our view of agricultural is often a romantic one, jolly farmers tending to their crops or their livestock and being one with the nature that surrounds them. But that owes more to the storybook version of farmers we are given as children than it does to the reality of making a living from the land.

The real face of farming is big business, worth billions to the UK exchequer, employing hundreds of thousands of people and providing 64% of the food eaten in the UK alone. Farming is serious stuff with serious consequences if anything goes wrong.

And when you’re reliant upon Mother Nature’s benevolence for your success, you’ll try everything possible to reduce the impact of her volatility.

Farmers have been finding innovative ways to do just that from the earliest times. Managing water through irrigation began around 3100Bc; harnessing the energy of animals with the plough was introduced in 3500BC; getting the most out of the land with crop rotation started somewhere in modern Belgium in the 16th Century; the widespread commercial use of fertilisers on soil really kicked off in the late 19th Century; the mechanization of tractors and implements began in the mid 20th Century; and seed breeding and traits accelerated in the late 20th Century.

None of this will surprise you but the point is that farmers have always been innovating and today is no different.

The only real difference is the form that innovation takes. Where once it was strapping a plough to an ox, now it is strapping a high-tech light sensor to a drone to conduct an aerial survey. But the motivation is the same – using any means or tools at their disposal to profitably improve production and quality while reducing risk as much as possible.

Greg Emerick, co-founder of Sentera

This focus has manifested itself in the last ten years or so in precision agriculture which in short, is the practice of precisely managing nutrients, water, seed and other agricultural inputs to improve economic outcomes in a wider range of growing conditions.

But it also encompasses the use of automated farm equipment like tractors, guided by GPS systems. And farmers in the US, where Sentera is based, have really embraced this new approach to agriculture. They’re applying tech to gain insight into a range of issues including:


• electromagnetic soil mapping
• soil sample collection
• crop yield data collection
• remote sensing or aerial imagery
• crop or soil colour index maps
• soil types
• soil characteristics
• drainage level
• potential yields

Not quite the picture of the jolly farmer ploughing his fields in his trusty red tractor that we all grew up with. This is the face of modern agriculture and it is changing all the time. When you look at that list of applications for the tech being used, one thing is common throughout – data. Agriculture experts are always looking for new and more efficient ways to gather that data and, most importantly, to act on it.

At a basic level, Sentera gathers and analyses data. The way we gather that data is with simple-to-use sophisticated sensors on drones or satellites and analytic tools, but when you boil it down to the basics, that’s what we do.

Farmers and their advisors use the analysed data Sentera’s sensors gather to manage their operations more efficiently – be that to measure the germination and emergence of their seed, evaluate the health and viability of a young crop or produce weed maps for precision spraying applications.

But there are broader applications. For example, asset managers use it to track and understand the value of their investments and to predict crop yields allowing for better crop marketing decisions.

And insurance companies are using drone surveys to gather the data to provide a more accurate view of what they are underwriting and, when there is a claim, calculating the most accurate payment.

In fact, the data is completely agnostic – it can be used by a range of people involved in the sector but the most important thing, and the biggest benefit, is that everyone is working from the same data.

This approach to agriculture is becoming increasingly more common in the US. With our recent partnership with Iprosurv, we are now bringing this drone mapping capability to the UK.

Because what drones do is make the application of our technology so much easier and accessible for farmers and their affiliates. Top of the rage equipment, well trained and experienced pilots and a platform that allows for quick, efficient and accurate collection and delivery of the data, allows growers or analysts, asset managers or insurance companies, to act quickly and effectively, whatever the situation is.

It may seem like science fiction stuff now, but I can assure you that tech is the future of farming. In the US it’s the present and it is fast becoming the same in the UK.

Today, agriculture is the least digitised industry globally. However, it is quickly changing into a sophisticated, tech-enabled industry that has, since its inception, been all about innovation. Now is an excellent time to be adding these capabilities to your operation.

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Drones and data set to revolutionise the UK agricultural insurance market

Iprosurv, the UK’s leading aerial survey, inspection and mapping provider, has entered into partnership with US-based agricultural surveying specialists, Sentera, in a move that will change the way agricultural risks are managed and insured in the UK.

The deal sees the full Sentera suite of sensors, software and analytics made available to Iprosurv’s existing fleet of over 400 drones. The new capability, a UK first, will enable Iprosurv to bring a new level of analytical detail to crop management and provide growers with the insight necessary to react before a crop is lost.

Using colour and multi-spectral imagery to create a field ‘heat map’, the new tech gives growers and their insurers a level of data and insight that has not been available previously.

The sensors provided by Sentera determine the health of a crop by analysing the light reflected by the crop leaves, down to individual plants. This allows the software to map out the health profile of a crop, enabling growers and insurers to take immediate and targeted remedial action.

This allows insurers to underwrite at a much more granular level which should lead to more accurate premium pricing and claims pay-outs for growers.

Rebecca Jones, CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv, predicted that the new capabilities would fundamentally change the way agricultural risks in the UK are managed and how insurers understand and price them.

Rebecca Jones, CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv, predicted that the new capabilities would fundamentally change the way agricultural risks in the UK are managed and how insurers understand and price them.

“The traditional approach to surveying crops requires boots on the ground, visual inspection and often lengthy analysis of individual plants. This is time consuming and, more importantly, can often be inaccurate but this partnership with Sentera means our drones can provide growers and their insurers with a detailed analysis of a crop’s condition, and it’s likelihood of failure, within hours,” she said.

“With Sentera’s tech on board, our drones can provide minutely specific data on a crop’s condition, predicting the yield and extent of any damage. Farming is becoming more and more automated and specialised and this technology is a significant addition to the modernisation of farming in the UK.”

In a recent Proof of Concept flight, an Iprosurv drone fitted with Sentera’s tech was able to help a farmer’s insurer establish that liability for their crop failure lay with a neighbouring farmer, avoiding a potential £1.5m claim on their record in the process.

Commenting on the partnership and the implications for the UK agricultural sector, co-founder and Director of New Strategic Ventures at Sentera, Greg Emerick, said:

Commenting on the partnership and the implications for the UK agricultural sector, co-founder and Director of New Strategic Ventures at Sentera, Greg Emerick, said:

“We’re excited to be working with Iprosurv to deliver the precision and efficiency of Sentera’s technology to agriculture professionals. Sentera’s solutions provide insights to growers, agronomists and retailers driving economic value up across the agriculture sector by reducing costs and improving production. 

“This same data is also being used to drive efficiencies for crop insurance claims adjusting and policy writing.”

The partnership is now live and the technology available to Iprosurv’s fleet of over 400 drones covering the UK. The capability will also be made available, via Iprosurv, to other drone operators on a commercial basis.

Contact For further information, contact martin.friel@iprosurv.com

About Iprosurv

Established in 2014, Iprosurv provides companies with the in-house capability of drone and data/media delivery services. Our CAMERA system and optimum drone operator platform provides bespoke services be that an on-demand, fully managed service to independent data/media delivery services.

Iprosurv is a pioneer in the provision of drone technology across a range of industries. Its current network of pilots, covering the entirety of the UK, use a proprietary system to record, store and deliver drone data to clients in a fast and secure way. From building surveys to flood response to assisting emergency services, Iprosurv continues to push the boundaries of how drones can be used in business.

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A view from the frontline: a tech-led future beckons for loss adjusting

Loss adjusting is is often seen as the preserve of men with clipboards and measuring tapes but as Darren Anderton, Head of Major Loss – North, at McLarens explains, the truth is far more digital than you might imagine.

Loss adjusting tends to be viewed as one of the more traditional areas of the insurance market: as a profession founded upon values such as trust, personal relationships and expert knowledge, but one in need of modernisation and disruption.

There is a lazy assumption that loss adjusters are an army of grey-suits in wellies, brandishing clipboards as they tour the nation’s disaster sites. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

While we still focus on what we do best – getting people and businesses back to where they were before disaster struck – our armoury of tools is far more digital.

For some time now McLarens have been shifting to an ever more digital model. We operate globally on a remote claims system where all our files and data are stored, where everyone is connected and where we can – as we have recently shown – work effectively as a virtual office. Our global technology strategy is about delivering convenience, agility, and safe services for our clients.

When lockdowns were announced across the globe, we were able to shift to 100% homeworking in 48 hours.

But not only have we been able to work remotely, we have extended our digital capabilities to policyholders. We have a purpose-built, mobile app that allows them to stream real-time, geo-tagged and tamper resistant image evidence of damage to their property from anywhere in the world, by photo or audio-visual recording, directly to our system from where we can start the claims process.

In less complex claims, this level of data can even allow a claim to be settled within hours or days, vastly improving the customer experience. 

And that ability to assess and manage claims remotely has been enhanced considerably by the use of drones. They have been part of our toolkit for some time now where we have used them primarily in large losses such as building fires, and in surge events such as floods.

All those digital tools working in harmony, has allowed loss adjusters to focus our expertise and experience on what matters most to customers – getting their claim settled quickly and fairly

The necessity of lockdown has seen us, and others, deploy them for less complex losses – roof damage to a property for example – and all of that together, all those digital tools working in harmony, has allowed loss adjusters to focus our expertise and experience on what matters most to customers – getting their claim settled quickly and fairly.

There are some out there who fear that technology, including drones, is a threat to loss adjusting but at McLarens, we see all the digital tools we use as a huge boon – not just to policyholders and insurers but to us too, as a business and as individuals.

Will loss adjusters have a decreasing role to play in low level, low value claims as this technology becomes more prevalent? Probably, over time.

There’s no doubting that investment in front end personal engagement on certain cases brings about a more efficient and better customer experience, particularly for sectors of society such as the aged, vulnerable, and less IT savvy who benefit human contact over technology.  But at the lower end of claim values, technology will enable a greater proportion of claims to be managed on a desktop or automated basis and we will see a greater focus on lifecycle reduction.

The secret will be in finding the right balance and ensuring that those claims that require the attendance of an adjuster due to size, complexity or a particular nuance, do find their way to a suitable expert to guide the claim through to settlement.  

Far better to focus our energies, our expertise and the technology at our disposal on the larger, more complex and potentially more costly claims. The claims where we can really show the value of what we do.  Whilst technology is no doubt assisting and bringing efficiency, it will not deliver the empathy or the innovative loss mitigation solutions that a good adjuster brings to such situations.

I don’t think there is any question that the increased use of technology in loss adjusting is a positive, for every party involved. For McLarens, the only real question is: where the next piece of tech is coming from and can it improve the way we work?

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A Case for Drones – In a Post Grenfell Landscape

The Grenfell disaster which claimed the lives of 72 people was not a one-off event, absorbed and grieved over before everyone moved on. The repercussions of that night are still with us and continue to be significant for residents of high-rise buildings across the country. And, indeed, for the landlords, housing associations and local authorities responsible for those properties.

The task facing the nation’s property managers is huge. They have to survey an estimated 1,700 high rise blocks, remove the cladding and make them safe to live in. And they need to do it quickly.

The Government has pledged £1.6bn towards these remediation efforts but it is a complex system, one that has come under attack for its perceived inaccessibility. But perhaps more pressing is the view held by the Housing, Communities & Local Government Committee that this £1.6bn will only be enough to repair a third of the properties currently considered unsafe.

Which presents a huge fiscal challenge for everyone involved, not least local authorities. 

It has been estimated by the same Committee that the cost of making each building safe will be £1.7m, covering everything from initial inspection, to the removal of cladding, to finishing the job. While it is clear that cutting corners or looking for cost savings in materials isn’t a viable option, there remains a pressing responsibility to keep costs down to make that fund stretch as far as is safely possible.

One part of the process where costs and timescales can be significantly reduced is in the inspection and survey of all these buildings through the use of drones. Not only can they do what a human can at a fraction of the cost, they can do it faster and with a greater degree of safety.

Drones are often viewed in extremes – either as a hobbyist’s toy or as a weapon of war. They are of course both, but increasingly, they are making their presence felt in the commercial world as more and more organisations wake up to their flexibility and adaptability. And one such area is the surveying of inaccessible properties.

Using High Resolution RGB imaging, drones can inspect the condition of a high-rise property (at a distance), in minute detail, in a fraction of the time it would take to do so manually using scaffolding, cherry pickers or ropes. The High Resolution RGB imaging is then translated into a 3D interactive model of the property which can be inspected in detail (up to 20mm) highlighting even the smallest amounts of damage to the outside and, when using thermal imaging, investigating anomalies such as damp ingress and thermal efficiency of the fabric of the building.

If LIDAR is incorporated increased levels of accuracy can be achieved down to 10mm and below.

The whole process, from instruction to inspecting the model, can take two or three days rather than the weeks and months required with traditional methods, and it is the speed with which drones can conduct surveys that should have landlords and local authorities sitting up and taking notice.

One of the problems facing property managers is understanding, in detail, the scope of the risk posed by their property portfolio and with the safety of tenants paramount, they need to understand it quickly.

Drones can help them do that as several inspections can be conducted in one day or over a period of days, providing the local authority with a quick, comprehensive view of their portfolio, including which properties pose the highest risk.

From here, the triage process begins, and drones are a speedy, cost-effective way of streamlining it, allowing the local authority to act quickly on its most vulnerable properties.

Drones can also act as a quality control tool to monitor and assess the ongoing work, and that governance role extends to post-work inspections to ensure the property has been re-instated as required.

If used properly, drones could and should act as the start and finish point of this remediation work and while they are not, of course, a catch-all solution for the many problems dogging the remediation programme, they do have a crucial role to play.

If the current remediation fund will not, as has been suggested, be sufficient to complete all the necessary work, then it is vital that any safe, reliable and proven cost-cutting measure be embraced as soon as possible.

In common with much of the commercial world, local authorities are at the early stages of exploring the possibilities presented by commercial drones. And in common with their private sector peers, it is those that recognise the opportunity earliest and act first, that will gain the most.

And that means giving tenants up and down the country quicker and more certain reassurance that they and their families are safe in their home.

Rebecca Jones is CEO and co-founder of Iprosurv

This and other articles can be viewed at LocalGov

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Eye in the sky: How Iprosurv is using drones to survey buildings

Rebecca Jones and her partner realised the commercial potential of drones, but, as she tells Martin Friel, it needed a leap of faith before their high-flying business could take off.

Drones, those little machines we see buzzing above parks and fields across the UK, have something of an unsavoury reputation. Whether it’s as dealers of remote death in the Afghan and Iraqi wars or causing huge disruption at Gatwick airport, people, understandably, are nervous about them and what they might be doing up there.  

But love them or loathe them, drones are increasing in popularity across the country with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) estimating there are around 130,000 registered drone operators in the UK, of which, nearly 6,000 are commercial.

The full story can be found here https://www.independent.co.uk

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IPROSURV SELECT ALTITUDE ANGEL AS GLOBAL MAP DATA PROVIDER

London, UK:  Altitude Angel, the world’s leading UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) technology provider, today announced survey and inspection provider, Iprosurv, has opted to embed Altitude Angel’s market leading data in its flight mapping solutions.

Established in 2014, Iprosurv are regarded as a pivotal company in the promotion and implementation of many of the drone applications which we see across various markets and industries today. With a drone pilot contractor network comprising of field experts from across the UK, Iprosurv are able to provide clients from all industries with valuable visual and data insights.

Iprosurv will be embedding Altitude Angel’s pioneering Airspace Map, DroneSafetyMap, within its internal pilot portal to provide Iprosurv’s network of UAV operators with a ‘one-stop-shop’ platform for assessing the risk associated with each operation prior to arriving on site. A detailed area report and hazard score will also be generated through Altitude Angel’s innovative Area Report API, providing further safety information crucial for ensuring safety and mitigating risk.

The platform will also assist the drone operators in submitting flight reports and will enhance visibility of drone operations through Altitude Angel’s GuardianUTM, as Iprosurv expands its operations across the UK and internationally.

On partnering with Iprosurv, Richard Ellis, Altitude Angel, Chief Business Officer, said: “The team at Iprosurv share the same entrepreneurial vision and values as Altitude Angel. We want our customers to be as well informed as possible and by integrating Altitude Angel data into its platform, we know Iprosurv will be getting the best possible data in the air and on the ground.”

Rebecca Jones, Iprosurv, founder and Chief Executive Officer, added: “We are delighted to have entered into this partnership with Altitude Angel.

“As a national provider of drone services, Iprosurv needs to play its part in promoting the safe operation of drones by working with regulators and industry professionals. As part of that, we were looking for a partner who could provide accurate real time data to enhance our proposition in a way which not only complies with current regulations but helps shape future ones, and Altitude Angel ticked all the boxes.

“As Iprosurv pushes ahead with its international ambitions, with Altitude Angel we will be able to do so in a way that is informed, safe and completely transparent with all the relevant regulators. We have always tried to push the boundaries of what commercial drones can do and this partnership is another step forward for Iprosurv and the wider commercial drone community.”

To view this and other articles click here

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Taking a lift from drones to stand out from the crowd

The world of insurance broking can be cut-throat where every client win and reduction in premium counts, says Aston Lark’s head of claims and risk management, Richard Graham. But by embracing tech and, in particular, drones, he is confident that Aston Lark can steal a march on competitors.

Standing out from the crowd as a broker can be tough, despite what anyone might think. There are a finite number of businesses out there to be insured and every single one of them are looking for the best terms while keeping costs down wherever they can. And they will go with the broker most likely to provide both.

As we progress through a hardening market, the challenge for the broker becomes even more acute which is why at Aston Lark, we are always looking for ways to differentiate ourselves with clients and insurers alike.

Our fundamental approach is to ensure that each and every one of our clients receives an Aston Lark level of service, regardless of who they are insured with. That means taking more responsibility for the services provided – as well as come up with our own innovative solutions. We want to take all the good stuff that insurers and loss adjusters do and do it ourselves but with a level of consistency that cannot be delivered by anyone but Aston Lark.

One of the most exciting and innovative ways in which we are doing that is in our use of drones. They have gained a strong foothold in the claims arena in recent years as they have shown just what they are capable of during surge storm events and in large, complex losses.

But the industry has been slow to explore their use in risk management and that is exactly where Aston Lark is headed. We have a large property book and these clients often struggle to provide the information on their properties that insurers would like to have.

For example, one of our clients is a large printing firm with huge premises, some of which were built 200 years ago. They were struggling to provide certain information to insurers as there was a good deal of uncertainty over the integrity of the roof as they simply hadn’t been able to access it properly for a number of years.

We suggested that we send up a drone to take a look and the 3D interactive model that was produced from the raw data allowed them to identify trouble spots and put in place a plan to fix them. This in turn also enabled them to satisfy the insurers requirements.

“It’s not just the clients who benefit – that value extends to insurers too”

This is one example, but we are convinced many of our clients would benefit hugely from the same service which is why we are about to launch a drone-powered risk management service to our client base.

It is not just the clients who benefit – that value extends to insurers too. Underwriters are constantly seeking more and more information about a risk and that appetite is only increasing in a hard market. Insurers can afford to be choosy and that choosiness is only satisfied by hard data.

They are always on the lookout for anything that can reduce their indemnity spend post loss so the pre-loss data that the 3D model provides them is hugely beneficial, not just for large risks, but smaller ones too.

For desktop building valuations, we use the drone data to provide our clients with an reinstatement cost assessment that provides insurers with the confidence they need to forego the average clause that’s usually inserted into a buildings policy as they are given a view of a risk that is reasonably close to a traditional boots-on-the-ground survey.

To be able to remove that clause provides a huge amount of comfort for clients where underinsurance is still a huge concern.

As I say, we are still in the early stages of appreciating the full application of drones in insurance, but the prospects are exciting to say the least.

Drone data and the way it is presented helps our clients manage the maintenance of their assets in a more sustainable way, allows insurers to offer better terms based on more granular detail and both of these things give Aston Lark a distinct advantage as we head into a hard market.

How long that advantage lasts will depend upon the speed at which other brokers pick up on this but in the meantime, Aston Lark will continue to seek out new tools and new approaches to ensure our clients are getting the terms and service they need.

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