Drones and data set to revolutionise the UK agricultural insurance market

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.”

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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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The outsider tasked with taking drones mainstream

We recently caught up with Graham Brown, CEO of drone trade body ARPAS, to talk about the future of commercial drones, the acceptance of their benefits in the business world and what ARPAS is doing to ‘normalise’ their presence in all our lives.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to recognise the opportunity in a market and, more importantly, help realise that opportunity.

Drones tend to be viewed in the extremes – either as a hobby toy or as military hardware. And while they are both, they are increasingly making their presence felt in the commercial world. While these inroads are more like footpaths (relative to the opportunity) the commercial application of drone technology is growing all the time, supported by the Association of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (ARPAS).

Headed up by industry-outsider Graham Brown, ARPAS is the non-profit professional body and trade association for the commercial drone market, focusing its energies on raising awareness of drones in business and engaging with regulators and Government to create the necessary physical and regulatory infrastructure to allow them to flourish.

While his professional background is in finance and technology rather than the drone community, Graham has become a rapid and keen convert.

“ARPAS is the not for profit trade association looking after the drone economy and ecosystem and when I joined, they were looking for someone who would be completely unbiased and work with all sectors of the market and Government,” says Graham.

His business background and his collaborative approach puts Graham in an excellent position to take a practical (but passionate) view of the role drones will play in all our lives.

“Drones are tools in the commercial world, and they happen to be very flexible. But one of the main reasons I believe every business should look at them is that if you have people working at height, or people working in hazardous environments, you have a responsibility to consider using a drone.”

“If you had someone working for you who fell from a height, injuring themselves or worse, and a drone could have done that job …” He drifts off letting the sentiment speak for itself.

“In most use cases drones will be safer, faster, cheaper, and often greener than the current alternatives”

For Graham, it is a no-brainer that businesses of all shapes and sizes, up and down the country, should be exploring the use of drones, particularly where workers are at height or in a hazardous environment. The question needs to be asked “Can that task be achieved by a drone and avoid the risk of working at height?” For many inspection tasks, the answer will be yes.

In most use cases drones will be safer, faster, cheaper, and often greener than the current alternatives. Beyond the obvious safety benefits, he says there are four key areas where drones are being or will be used extensively over the coming years.

“The number one use today is in data capture, using drones in surveys and inspections to collect all the necessary information,” he says.

“This includes their extensive use in construction, civil engineering, oil and gas, utilities, news reporting, media and film. The list is nearly endless and already impacts our lives, but we are still only at the start of the journey.”

The second area is the transportation of people via air taxis and buses.

“This is often referred to as Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and the intention will be to have services covering local and regional transport that deliver a greener alternative to current options. This won’t happen overnight, but it will happen,” says Graham.

The third area is freight – everything from large unmanned cargo planes to packages being delivered locally to customers and there have been trials of delivering everything from food to vital health supplies around the world. The UK has some of the busiest airspace in the world so ensuring these activities are carried out safely will take some time but again, but Graham is confident it will happen.

The fourth, and most exciting area, is ‘drones that do’. By this Graham means drones that perform a specific task beyond flight such as washing the windows of a high-rise office block or spraying crops in a much more selective, precise manner.

“Think of flying robots that can perform tasks. Those examples are simple but this area will expand as innovation kicks in,” he says.

“We are pushing some boundaries but the key thing we need to focus on is influencing the regulations and legislation”

And it seems that it is not only Graham who is getting excited by the possibilities here. Leeds University has experimented using 3D printers and drones to locate and make small repairs and Michigan State University has tested using a drone to find and replace damaged roof shingles and autonomously make repairs.

“There will be things we haven’t thought of yet, but it is the mix of drones and robotics that will create the market of drones that do,” he says.

But regardless of how drones are currently used or will be in the future, there is, Graham says, one constant: “Drones are faster, safer and cheaper, and often greener.”

His conviction that drones will become an integral part of our everyday lives is persuasive, but it does beg the question as to why we are still waiting for it to become a reality.

The reason for the delay is pretty much why ARPAS exists.

“We are pushing some boundaries but the key thing we need to focus on is influencing the regulations and legislation to focus on the imperatives for the use of drones in the future.

“We have to build some of the wider infrastructure before we can safely have thousands of drones out there. It is about building systems to monitor their use and if we don’t want to be behind the curve, we need to get some of that in place now, with dedicated test areas and proper funding,” he says.

“We are at the very start of the curve with a lot of companies using drones, but they are not using them everywhere”

He says that by engaging with the CAA and Government, ARPAS is helping to establish an environment in which drones can thrive.

“We are getting behind drones but in a way that makes sure their adoption is done in a safe way and where public sentiment is supportive,” he says.

But even if the correct, safe environment is established, businesses themselves have to be convinced of their merits. While various organisations from insurers and construction firms to local authorities and police forces have started using drone technology, it is not yet pervasive. And this, according to Graham, presents a challenge.

“Business buy-in is crucial,” he says, explaining that some still view drones as a toy rather than a business tool.

“The whole appreciation of safer, faster, cheaper hasn’t quite penetrated. We are at the very start of the curve with a lot of companies using drones, but they are not using them everywhere,” he says.

“There are some exceptions, but for most businesses, they are getting some but not all of the benefits.”

He points out that while they are being used effectively by many companies, the emergency services and search and rescue organisations, until the capabilities are integrated across the whole operation, the full benefits will not be realised.

For example, some insurers are using drones in claims, but they are not currently using them in building surveys, a use that also has applications beyond the insurance industry.

“Maintenance teams are usually reactive but by deploying drones, across all the assets they manage, they could get all the external surveys done and analyse the data.

“The comparison between past and current images and data can be reviewed and the exceptions rather than the whole asset base would be the target of preventative maintenance to help drive efficiencies. I appreciate this is a simplified view of the activity, but I hope it makes the point. Opportunities exist for change to deliver safer, faster and cheaper ways of working,” he says.

He adds that it is not until we achieve the extensive use of drones, that we can say we are properly using them.

While Graham and ARPAS relish the challenge of creating the physical and cultural environment that will allow drones to thrive, there is an awareness that the destiny of drones is not entirely in their hands.

“This is not one sector’s problem on its own. To get to the point where drones are used throughout industry, everyone needs to get together to drive this,” says Graham.

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Building survey case study

For what started out as a niche plaything for flight enthusiasts, the penetration of drones into the commercial world is accelerating at rapid pace.

It’s not just the headline-grabbing Amazon delivery proposal – it’s everything from farming, utilities and insurance to the emergency services, engineering and even acting as a temporary mobile phone mast.

But one area where they are starting to make real inroads, and where the cost effectiveness and accessibility they bring is urgent, is in construction and building, in particular, council-owned buildings.

The anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has just passed but the work to make tower blocks across the country safe, and avoid a repeat, is still to be completed. This is despite the fact there is a real urgency to inspect the buildings, understand the risk and map out a remediation plan for each one.

It’s not surprising that we find ourselves in this situation. It is a pretty monumental undertaking and the planning alone takes time never mind the practicalities of erecting the scaffolding at each site and getting all the necessary paperwork in place to do so.

The Government has committed £1.6bn to facilitate this remediation work and while that is to be welcomed, some commentators believe the final cost will be much higher.

And when public funds are at stake, it is incumbent upon those responsible for using the funds, to do so in the most cost-effective way possible. Thankfully, councils seem to be acutely aware of this and many are starting to wake up to the possibilities that drones open up for them.

Iprosurv was instructed on an 15 story high rise where the cladding is falling away from the base structure. This is creating obvious health and safety issues but as the cladding falls away, moisture creeps in threatening to compromise the integrity of the building.

To satisfy insurance requirements, the managers of the building had to undertake a thorough inspection of the property to identify and quantify the risk and put a remediation plan in place. For a multitude of reasons, time was of the essence.

Getting the scaffolding up around the building to conduct a detailed inspection would have taken weeks if not months so they looked to other solutions and found Iprosurv.

We were able to secure the area, send a drone up, get detailed imagery of the damage to the façade and, using thermal imagery, pinpoint where moisture had seeped into the fabric of the building.

From this, the client was able to prioritise the remediation and pull together a plan to take to their insurer to ensure that the building could be made safe and satisfy the insurance requirements. And of equal importance, all this was made possible with zero disruption to residents in the building or the surrounding area.

From instruction to delivery of all the data to the client, including a high definition 3D model, took eight days and cost 1% of what it would have cost to erect the scaffolding.

While this is just one instruction on one building in one council on one insurer’s portfolio, if we were to extrapolate those time and fiscal savings across the portfolio of buildings that require inspection, the savings would be monumental.

It is very encouraging to see more and more insurers and councils explore the possibilities of drone technology but for society at large to see the full benefit, we need to get to a position where drones are an integral, normal part of the process, whatever that may be.

Anyone directly involved in the commercial use of drones will recognise the effort it has taken to get them accepted as an integral part of business processes of all types. But increasingly, and particularly in nationwide safety projects such as the Government’s cladding remediation programme, their use starts to look like an urgent no-brainer.

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The only perspective is the customer perspective

One of the industry’s most enthusiastic early adopters of drone technology, Zurich Insurance saw that drones can get places humans can’t and get there quicker too.

So, when Zurich’s UK Chief Claims Officer, David Nichols had a personal roof damage claim, he was keen to see if drones delivered what he thought they did.

And here he gives us some insight from a unique perspective – a claims director experiencing the claims service firsthand.

As a claims director, you want to be pretty confident that your teams are delivering a top notch service and that the customer experience is always excellent but there is no greater test of your service than being ‘fortunate’ enough to experience claims services yourself.  I have to say that everything was what I hoped it would be!

Anyway, the claim went smoothly but the bit I was particularly interested in experiencing was some new technology we have introduced to our claims service – drones.

We started using them because we thought it sounded like a great idea. Of course, the decision-making was more detailed than that but in essence, we have been looking for everything and anything that can speed up and smooth out the claims process for customers and drones seemed to be a simple, cost-effective way of doing that.

The obvious, immediate use is in claims where we can’t access the site such as in major floods or fires. Drones provide immediate access, but they also provide detailed imagery, measurements and a host of other data, putting our claims teams on the front foot.

It speeds up our processes and brings the customer closer to a clear decision, either way, in hours rather than weeks.

But there is an added benefit to using drones – customer engagement. The ability to share images of the damage with a customer and being able to explain next steps immediately provides reassurance and we are able to bring the customer into the claims conversation in a way we haven’t been able to before. Images provide the immediate truth of a situation. 

More than that, this approach can also bring the customer’s knowledge of their business or property into play to help us allocate resources in the most effective way. For example, we had a factory fire earlier this year. By using the images captured by the drone, the client was able to indicate to us the location of their machinery, what parts of the operation were critical and what parts could wait. This allowed us to shape our response in a more informed and targeted way.

All of this makes using drones in claims a bit of a no-brainer for me. The clincher was when I experienced it for myself through a personal claim. My roof was damaged in the storms this year and obviously the extent of the damage had to be understood before the claim could go any further.

A drone was deployed within days of registering the claim. Within an hour of the drone being on site, I was shown imagery of the damage by the drone operator who then explained the next steps to me.

I did not have to wait for scaffolding to be set up or a cherry picker to be deployed. I was also brought into the conversation surrounding my claim at the earliest stage. It was fast, completely unobtrusive and I felt included in the process. Exactly the kind of experience I hoped drones would bring to our customers.

This is only scratching the surface though. Drones capture a huge amount of detailed data and I see no reason why this can’t be deployed more widely such as with the building estimation tools that we all use. Any process that can be automated to create a better customer experience has to be embraced.

And why stop at claims? There are obvious applications in a broad range of services, and we will continue to explore these. Imagine a process where we have the detailed drone data at policy inception stage and detailed drone data at the claim stage? Those data sets can ‘speak’ to each other, giving greater clarity, faster decision making and greater levels of transparency for all parties.

We can do that. The tools are there. As individual firms and as an industry, we just need to have the foresight and the confidence to use them to their full extent. What started as a “why not?” at Zurich is now a “where next?”.

Posted in Drone Tech, General Interest, Information, Iprosurv News

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