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.
Iprosurv has secured Extended Visual Line of Sight permissions from the Civil Aviation Authority for its network of remote pilots.
Standard aviation regulations insist that drones remain within the pilot’s sight at all times during flight which has historically limited flight distances to around 500m but Iprosurv’s new permissions allow its remote pilots to fly drones up to 2km from the launch site, with no direct line of sight required by the remote pilot.
The special permissions issued by the CAA have so far been granted to less than 1% of the nation’s commercial drone operators.Story continues belowAdvertisement
Commenting on the move, Iprosurv co-founder and CEO, Rebecca Jones, said: “We are delighted that the CAA has once again recognised the high level of training, safety and monitoring that takes place across our network of remote pilots and has seen fit to provide us with these new permissions.
“What may seem like a technicality is actually a huge leap forward in the capabilities of drones, particularly in the early assessment of disaster areas, assisting the emergency services and in the survey of inaccessible buildings.”
Adding: “These exemptions will allow us to stream footage and data direct to the client’s desktop even before a site has been physically visited.”
Currently, when faced with a large survey area, pilots often have to stop a flight once the limits of line of site have been reached, drive to the next launch site and start the process again.
Iprosurv says its new level of functionality will allow insurers, property managers and the emergency services to view the entire area and assess and triage the situation in real time.
Jones continued: “Drones have always had the potential to completely change the way we respond to disasters or large-scale surveys but having the ability to remain in the air for longer, going further distances and relaying real time data back to the client is a huge step forward.
“In granting these permissions, the CAA has shown a welcome willingness to help unlock the commercial and societal benefits of drones and we look forward to introducing our new capabilities to all of our clients.”
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.”
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?”.
The insurance industry had no choice but to keep operating during the lockdown – the financial regulator made it clear that it expected claims to be processed and settled as normal. How exactly the industry should do that, was less clear. Unsurprisingly, for many, tech was the answer and here, Lisa Bartlett, the UK and Ireland President of loss adjusting firm, Crawford & Co, gives us some insight into what that looked like and what role drones had to play in keeping the claims machine moving.
It is a well-established idea that the more we embrace technology, the more we fear it will make us humans redundant. But what has been a gentle jog towards digital over the past few years, suddenly turned into a sprint during the lockdown.
Those that could, turned digital virtually overnight, having been forced to find new ways to operate and maintain customer service. It has shown many of us just how powerful technology can be and has made us completely rethink how we will work when life returns to ‘normal’.
Does this mean the machines have won?
Not necessarily. There is no doubting that the greater use of tech in insurance and adjusting is here to stay. That’s a given. It’s nothing new anyway – we have been introducing more and more digital processes into our businesses for years but perhaps what the lockdown has forced us to do is to really explore its full capabilities.
Crawford has been able to conduct desktop claims handling for some time now but when the lockdown was introduced, we went remote and digital quickly, across the organisation and it worked. But it also evolved.
For some time now, we have been using an app that allows customers to upload photos of damage to our adjusters to help speed up the claims process. During the lockdown, with no site visits possible, we had to find a new way, so we shifted to video conferencing and while not the same as having a human on site, provided the necessary insight for our adjusters to get a claim moving.
To supplement that, we have been using drones to conduct site visits and again, while this is not new technology for us, the use of it has increased and been applied beyond the traditional uses of flood and major fire events.
The immediate operational use of tech is obvious, but it goes beyond the practical and this is what, despite any reservations, we need to keep exploring. Because it doesn’t just make life easier – if used properly and blended with our technical expertise, it will make us better at what we do.
Take the cameras that drones use, for example. These high definition cameras take a series of NADIR (straight down), oblique and horizontal images, which can then be processed through advanced software to create a 3D interactive ‘digital twin’ model of the site. This permanent record can then be shared with all parties, reducing or even removing the need for repeat visits, with the obvious time savings that provides.
But perhaps more importantly, the data and imaging can be used with clients too, showing them what was found, the damage done, what the likely causes of that damage were and what the remedy might be. It just makes the whole claims process much more transparent for the customer and, indeed, for everyone involved.
And this can only be a good thing. Whatever reservations people may have about technology, I just can’t see Crawford, or anyone else, rowing back and not embracing the advantages it provides. Where there is a clear operational and customer service benefit, it is incumbent upon all of us to use it.
That doesn’t mean that technology is the be all and end all, however. Its full potential can only really be realised when it is properly paired with the technical expertise of adjusters. Indeed, as smart as the tech may be, it still needs the insight and oversight that only an adjuster can provide – drones are flown by a human, the 3D images are interpreted by a human and the adjuster is still making the final call on a claim.
And I think that is biggest operational lesson we can learn from all of this – yes, we are all more digital now but no, that does not need to be to the detriment of humans. It is with an open mind and a determination to explore all the possibilities (while reminding ourselves of our own value), that we will make the real digital leap forward that so many have been predicting for so long.
The adoption of drone technology across industry and wider society has been accelerating over recent years so much so, that even the most traditional of sectors are starting to embrace their use.
Insurance isn’t known for its willingness to embrace change and we at Iprosurv know that first-hand. We’ve spent the last six years persuading insurance companies and loss adjusters, one by one, of the benefits of drones. And while we’ve made some great progress, it hasn’t always been easy and often frustrating, but this month marked a bit of a milestone.
More and more companies are using our drone pilots to survey the damage caused to buildings by floods, fires and storms and they are also waking up to the benefits of using them to survey properties to assess their current condition and risk of damage.
Once these companies use drones, they get it instantly, albeit one by one. Drones provide them access to closed off or dangerous sites and the data they produce allows them to get working on paying claims in hours rather than weeks. Despite what most people think, insurers do want to pay claims – they just want to be sure of all the facts before they do and the data our drone pilots provide help them do that quickly.
And it seems that we are approaching a bit of a tipping point in this industry. This month Iprosurv was shortlisted for Claims Initiative of the Year at the British Insurance Awards, the first time the use of drones has been recognised at an industry award.
Don’t laugh but the British Insurance Awards are often called the Oscars of insurance so it’s a really big deal for that industry to recognise the contribution of drone technology in this way.
Of course, we’re really excited at the prospect of winning but what is really satisfying is that it feels like we (and our drone pilots) are becoming an accepted part of the industry. And that’s not just important for us as a business.
It’s important for the industry as a whole because drones can reduce the decision-making time on a claim from days to hours. Delays to claims are one of the main complaints made by customers so anything that the industry can do to improve that has to embraced wholesale across the industry.
We are by no means there yet, but for an industry that is quite innovation-phobic to recognise the contribution and importance of drones to the way they operate, feels like a really important step forward.
From accidents off the rugged cliffs of the Atlantic coast to casualties in the high waves of the North Sea, drones could be used in the future to help save lives across the UK
A new project will investigate if drones could also boost missions by
visiting rescue sites ahead of air, sea or land based recovery teams; by providing
a full picture of the situation and helping to develop the appropriate
5 February by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the project will
explore how current regulation can be developed to unlock the potential for drones
to help those in distress on the UK’s coastline, making rescues safer and more
Nusrat Ghani said: “Drone technology has enormous potential for our search and
rescue teams, who save lives 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
ground-breaking project will not only hope to boost the capabilities of our
already fantastic teams but will also boost our ability to spot pollution
hazards and protect our precious marine environment.”
Last year alone,
the MCA’s civilian search and rescue helicopters responded to seven missions a
day on average, saving more than 1,600 people. In total, the MCA coordinated
over 22,000 incidents and rescued over 7,000 people.
aviation technical assurance manager at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency,
said: “I am extremely proud and excited that the MCA has taken the brave step
to take the lead in the development and implementation of beyond visual line of
sight (BVLOS) drones in UK airspace.
“The use of drones in search and rescue, counter pollution and maritime
aerial observation operations will potentially increase overall efficiency and
also reduce the risk to our personnel – allowing the MCA to discharge its
international obligations effectively.”
The use of drones in commercial business is increasing
Whilst there are numerous risks and safety concerns associated with the use of drones, they do allow for a more efficient way for businesses to survey
We take a look at how drones could be used during a claims process, and the benefits they could bring to the insurance industry.
The use of drones in commercial businesses is increasing, as the number of commercial operators with a license to fly drones in the UK has risen from five in 2010 to over 4,500 in 2018.
Whilst there are numerous risks and safety concerns associated with the use of drones, not least the high profile case of drones grounding flights at Gatwick, in 2018 the speed, cost and sustainability of doing so can allow for a more efficient way for businesses to survey both vast areas and hard to reach places.
We take a look at how drones could be used during a claims process, and the benefits they could bring to the insurance industry.
Surveying a damaged area
A key use of drones is their ability to survey a large area in a short time. In cases of severe damage, for example a large scale fire at a warehouse or building, or damage from extreme weather events and natural disasters, drones are able to scan the area quickly in order to determine the damage caused. Recently, drones have been able to capture images of the damage caused by wildfires in California and across parts of Australia.
In addition, another common use of drones would be to inspect damaged roofs or tall buildings, areas which would be difficult, and costly, for individuals to reach. In doing this, images of damaged areas can be accessed quicker by an insurer, meaning progress of a claim can be much quicker.
While the ability to identify large-scale damage is one benefit of using drones, it is also in cases where damage is known to exist but in places humans can’t access easily, for example equipment breakdown such as boilers that drones also have benefits. With some equipment often being located in tight places, drones can be called upon to access and survey any potential damage that may occur, or may have occurred.
Helping with inspections
Similarly to surveying a damaged area, drones can also be used in the safety inspection of a number of ways. Inspecting roofs, buildings or large areas such as crops and hard to reach equipment are just a small number of ways that drones can provide benefits to insurers before any loss has occurred.
An advantage to being able to take so many high-quality pictures of an area at once for insurers is clear – not only will it reduce the time it takes for images to be taken, but it also presents significantly less risk than if an employed surveyor attempted to take them.
An added benefit of being able to take so many images of an area during inspection, is being able to revisit those pictures when a claim is made, especially in cases of suspected fraud. For example, being able to look back at a picture of a roof that has been claimed to have been damaged in strong winds, can help detect and deter fraudulent claims if there was already damage to a particular area.
As well as reducing cost and risk for an insurer, and in an age of speed and autonomy, being able to access images of damaged areas quickly through use of a drone can lead to claims being processed faster – leading to increased customer satisfaction.
The use of drones in insurance is increasing and there has been a shift in how companies are using technology to improve their processes. As mentioned in Insurance Journal, ‘the last two years suggests that drones and aerial-imagery will soon become commonplace after catastrophes, as well as in other areas for the insurance industry’.
Whilst the benefits of using drones in the insurance industry are clear to see, there are a number of issues that will need to be resolved before their use becomes mainstream. Regulations around their use, including how big they can be, the speed they can fly and the altitudes they can go, continue to be stumbling blocks, as well as the certification and training required to be able to use one proficiently. Cost is another issue, as high quality equipment is likely to cost siginificant money, and that is before the additional outlays on staff training, qualifications and transportation.
The benefits and risks of using drones for businesses are clear, and as mentioned previously there are a number of considerations business need to make in order for them to become commonplace.
Within the claims process, drones can provide insurers with a tool to settle claims quickly and to reduce risk for claims inspectors, meaning it is surely only a matter of time until their use becomes customary.
Article by: Paul Redington Regional Major Loss Manager at Zurich Insurance Company Ltd
Iprosurv has again established itself as one of the UK leading supplier of drone services, with the successful award of a place in the £8m contract in conjunction with YPO and the Home Office national framework agreement.
Iprosurv tendered for one part of a four-lot contract to deliver drone services through their nationwide platform of CAA approved drone operators and associated services to the public sector organisations, in particular the blue light organisations and the emergency services, the contract runs for 2 years until 2022 with a further option to extend for a further 2 years until 2024.
Iprosurv will be on the YPO government
framework agreement delivering a fully managed inspection service, along with
bespoke services including immediate response for blue light services wishing
to deploy drone technology where they have no or limited in house capability.
The award of the contract is testament to the continued success of Iprosurv and platform of dedicated professional pilots, in conjunction with flight safety and client service at its core.
Rebecca Jones CEO of Iprosurv commented, “We are extremely proud to have been awarded a national framework agreement with YPO, in conjunction with the Home Office, to provide associated services. Throughout 2019 we have supported over 50 organisations where they have no or limited in house capability. Increasingly we have seen deployment for major incidents on the rise through our existing partnerships in instances such as fire and floods and its not an uncommon for Iprosurv to assist the emergency services with vital aerial data insights whilst the pilot teams have been on site. Its evident drones are becoming a vital tool to collect fast and accurate data whilst improving public safety. To further support both the blue light and emergency services along with the wider public sector is a testament of our award-winning service and demonstrates our niche and bespoke solution of deployment capability is encouraging wider use of safe drone deployment”.
Explaining the reasons behind the drone
framework, a YPO spokesman said: “We were approached by the Home Office to
discuss a gap in public procurement. Explaining the
reasons behind the drone framework, a YPO spokesman said: “We were approached
by the Home Office to discuss a gap in public procurement.
“Naturally we are very excited to be working with the Home
Office and on a framework that incorporates drone technology, but we are also
really pleased to be working closely with the police and fire and rescue
They concluded: “After much discussion and healthy deliberation,
a lot structure was agreed, believed to be fit for purpose for all
public-sector organisations, not just police and fire.
“The group involved in creating the framework has a wide
knowledge base. This, coupled with different personal requirements, is what
will make the framework a benefit to emergency services and the wider public
This follows a recent further award and a place of two lots out
of a three part lot of a £1.1m framework agreement – drone services, data
modelling to local authorities and housing associations.