Dr Monica Rivas Casaldo, senior lecturer in Integrated Environmental Monitoring at Cranfield University, discusses how Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) can quickly capture data on urban flooding to give an accurate picture of property damage – meaning interventions to limit damage can be made immediately.
The average annual cost of flood damage to property in England is more than £1bn and rising. One in six properties are at risk, and the average cost of the repairs for each property ranges between £10,000 and £50,000.
It’s a cycle of threats, misery and repairs that’s exacerbated by the time involved in assessing costs for insurance claims. Residential and commercial property owners are advised not to undertake any clearing up activity until the damage has been assessed by the insurance company, which is time-consuming and costly to undertake. There can be substantial further costs if any dwellings become uninhabitable and the residents have to move into alternative accommodation.
There needs to be detailed understanding of the likelihood of flooding, its likely magnitude and impact in order for there to be the most reliable and effective insurance provision available, with appropriate premiums, excess and loss adjustment. Costs for property owners can be mitigated by adopting different measures, such as resilience and resistance measures (flood guards, hard floor surfaces and waterproof plaster etc) and by making use of insurance products that spread the risk and ensure coverage to as many properties as possible. These will typically cost in the range of £3000 to £10,000 but can significantly reduce the impact of flooding.
Current flood damage assessment
Current flood damage assessment by the insurance industry following an event relies on a combination of door-to-door inspections and remote sensing techniques. Many Canadian insurers, for example, use satellite imagery pre- and post-event to assess risk exposure, estimate the number of claims in an area and assess the need for loss adjusters. Similarly, Swiss Re relies on CatNet, a software system that overlays satellite images onto Google maps enabling an assessment of the extent of the flooded area to be made and to determine where claims will arise. But there are a number of factors that limit the effectiveness of remote sensing methods: spatio-temporal coverage may not be available for the required zone and period; optical imagery cannot provide information if there is low cloud cover; satellite data that can penetrate cloud cover has an oblique viewing angle which makes it difficult to discriminate water from other urban features. Also, current remote sensing approaches don’t provide enough detail to assess the effects of micro-topography in streets and the presence of property flood resistance measures.
New results from a study of the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to capture data on urban flooding has demonstrated their potential as a more effective alternative. UAV aerial imagery offers both timely (on-demand) and increasingly detailed (higher resolution) information than comparable satellite or aircraft imagery. UAVs can also be deployed to assist in the response to flooding in conditions and areas that are not accessible by manned aircraft or helicopters. In the last five years, the use of UAV technology has increased exponentially with a varied range of commercial platforms (rotary blade, fixed wing, and nano and hybrid drones) and sensors. An estimated 600 UAVs were used globally in 2015 by police, firefighters, humanitarian relief, and disaster management, with the number being used doubling on a yearly basis.
Initial research was carried out at the time of the major Cockermouth flooding at the end of 2015. As a result of storm Desmond, a total of 466 properties were flooded due to flood risk management structures being overtopped and outflanked. The event was a consequence of heavy rainfall over an extended period with more than 300 mm of rain falling over a 24 hour period, which translated into flows in the Derwent River of 395 m3 s−1 at the Ouse Bridge gauging station and 170 m3 s−1 at the Cocker Southwaite River gauging station. The estimated annual exceedance probability for the observed event was less than 1% for both rainfall and river flows.
Fixed Wing Drones
A fixed wing platform UAV was selected for the survey to maximise area coverage under the rainy and gusty conditions. The Sirius-Pro platform had a 163 cm wingspan and a length of 120 cm, able to fly for up to 50 minutes, and equipped with a16 megapixel Panasonic GX-1 on-board camera. Images were used to identify the flood impact and extent, with each point being assigned a confidence level (high, medium, or low) describing the uncertainty associated with its impact classification and the potential for the impact to have been generated from any other source rather than flood. The raw UAV high-resolution imagery was used to reduce the level of uncertainty when possible. The resulting flood impact point database was used to identify residential property that could have been flooded during Desmond.
The direct tangible losses (domestic clean-up, household inventory damage, and building fabric damage) for the affected properties were calculated using a UK specific methodology. The losses (without VAT or other indirect taxes) for a residential property of a given type and age (for example, pre-1919 detached, 1975–1985 semi-detached, and 1919–1944 flat) were estimated based on the flood water depth within the property. Residential properties with directly observable resistance measures (i.e., flood aperture guards for doors and windows, flood resistant airbricks, and raised doors or steps leading to a property) were also taken into account, alongside the type of flooding (overbank topping, pluvial run-off, and groundwater) affecting the property.
The results from the UAV analysis were compared with those from the classic door-to-door approach (assumed to deliver 100% accuracy). The UAV framework was found to provide an accuracy in the detection of flooded properties of 84%. The results also highlighted the importance of considering all sources of flooding even when an event is largely thought to be fluvial in nature. It is important in the initial evaluation of an event to consider flooding from all sources not just from the overtopping of flood risk management structures. There were significant levels of pluvial and lateral flow flooding, with a total of £3.6 million in direct tangible losses assigned to 168 properties outside the fluvial flood extent. This comprises 36% of the total direct tangible losses associated with all sources of flooding in Cockermouth during this event. These properties were not initially identified as being flooded as the initial responses focused on the fluvial flood extent. Resistance measures present within the area resulted in a considerable reduction in direct tangible losses (£4 million). The work presented here also highlighted the importance in selecting accurate remote sensing loss-adjustment approaches, with a discrepancy in direct tangible losses between the two approaches tested of around £1 million.
The UAV approach will facilitate a better and faster estimation of the extent and impact of a flooding event, a more rapid evaluation of the affected area and the associated damage costs, also enabling loss adjusters to prioritise their individual household impact assessments. What’s needed now is further development of the system to allow for a more automated process and near-real-time data.
As more and more providers turn to remote technology to keep the claims process going we asked Waseem Malik, Executive Managing Director of Claims for AXA Insurance to give us his view and why he thinks greater use of tech and increased digital capability is finally here to stay in
It’s hard to find positives in a global pandemic but I’m an optimist so hear me out.
The insurance industry isn’t known for its revolutionary tendencies. We prefer to change things incrementally, safely and surely. We get there eventually, but it often takes time.
And it has been no different with the digitisation of the industry. There isn’t an organisation worth its salt that is not going through some kind of digital transformation but if I’m honest, none of us have done it at any great speed.
But this is where the positive in the pandemic comes in. Of course, insurance isn’t alone in this but by being forced to work remotely, we have all had to find new ways of doing that, from managing claims to conducting risk assessments and everything in between. And we’ve had to do it quickly.
The answer to that problem has, almost every time, been tech and I’m glad to say that we have embraced this wholeheartedly at AXA where we have been accelerating our use and deployment of this.
For example, customers can report and submit their claim, complete with damage and incident details, via their phone allowing the claim handler to get moving as soon as the data is in.
And for large losses, particularly in property, we have been able to use tech such as drones, rather than people, to safely assess the damage and get the claim moving.
Neither of these processes are new. The difference now is that rather than seeing tools like these as an option, they are the first port of call and whenever we emerge out of this pandemic, I think they will remain vitally important.
Because it’s not just the industry that has had to adapt to this – customers are also getting used to a new way of doing things. And the feedback we are getting on these tech-led approaches is extremely positive. The smart use of tech speeds the claims process up, it makes our decision making much more transparent and it makes their experience of dealing with us much easier.
They have seen what is possible and how our use of tech positively impacts their experience, so they’ll expect more of the same and we need to deliver it. But I am acutely aware that the conviction of one insurer isn’t going to give our customers the experience they or we want.
All parties need to understand the value of this tech. I can easily imagine an underwriter offering preferential terms to a broker who comes armed with detailed drone data on a risk. Why wouldn’t they? The data doesn’t lie.
And for adjusters, not only does it allow them to assess a site quickly and safely, it is cost effective too and in a sector of the market where margins are wafer thin, that has got to be a benefit they and insurers want to embrace.
It’s not just about drones – they are simply an example to illustrate my point. The pandemic and subsequent lockdown has forced many of us to adopt tech more broadly and with greater speed than we would perhaps have imagined – just look at all our kids using Microsoft Teams, better than us in many cases, for their online lessons!
But for customers and the industry to get the full benefit, we all need to understand and accept the value it offers. This is an opportunity, driven by tragic events, but an opportunity nonetheless and if we don’t take it, we will have let our customers down.
Not only that. We will have let the next generation of insurance professionals down, those people who are looking to us to create the industry of the future, and we will have let them down badly. I for one don’t want to be here in five or ten years’ time saying “I told you so”. I want to be here saying “I was part of the revolution”.
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
As 2020 begins, thoughts inevitably
drift towards what the year ahead holds. For many of us that means well-meaning
new year’s resolutions, but technology experts are once again seeking to
pinpoint emerging trends and over the next 12 months, we could see the most
transformative technology taking shape in the skies above us.
There are huge potential benefits to
be had from emerging drone technology and if we get it right, we could soon
have drones delivering medical supplies to people in our most congested cities
and harder to reach communities. Drones can also monitor and respond to traffic
accidents, track animals, monitor crops, watch for poachers and provide aid
when natural disasters strike. The potential benefits are huge.
All of this explains why the global
civil aerial drone market is expected to almost triple over the coming decade,
to £11.4bn in 2028. But to make the most of the new technology in the UK, we
first need to deal with questions and concerns about irresponsible and illegal
Most drones are currently controlled
via hand-held radio transmitter with flights restricted to the radius of radio
signal reception, meaning that they have to fly within visual line of sight of
the pilot. But as Vodafone argues in our new report to be published next week,
there are huge gains to be had from drones that are able to fly safely ‘beyond
visual line of sight’; something that is possible via the safer and more secure
alternative of cellular-connected drones with an inbuilt SIM card connecting
them to a mobile network.
Only with a cellular connected drone
is it possible to track and control the device so that it can be flown safely
and securely from some distance away. Cellular connection can provide further
benefits as a complementary system for verifying location and the ability to
have dynamic no-fly zones which can provide significant security benefits.
Understandably, it is this type of
drone use that the public wants to see more of. While rogue operators have
previously attracted negative headlines from incidents such as at Gatwick
Airport in 2018, polling shows that the vast majority of the public would
support the more widespread adoption of drones if there was a mechanism to
provide increased safety, security and monitoring. For example, 92% of people
support drone use for tacking fires and natural disaster relief.
To ensure the UK moves in the right
direction on drones, the Government should recognise and analyse the
substantial benefits that can come from cellular-connected drone use. It is
only by pushing forward with the development of these drones that the UK can
fully benefit from the use of the new technology, whilst ensuring they are
flown safely and securely.
Across the world, organisations are
waking up to the benefits of responsible drone usage. Here in the UK, the
London Fire Brigade has been trialling the use of drones to improve safety for
their firefighters and to allow more accurate responses to incidents.
Firefighters also used drones to tackle the giant blazes during Paris’s recent
Notre Dame cathedral fire. By doing so, they were able to make tactical choices
to stop the fire at the time when it was potentially occupying the two belfries
of the cathedral.
Further afield, drones fitted with
high definition thermal cameras are increasingly used to track, inspect and
monitor livestock remotely. The government of Assam in India partnered with
Tata Consulting Services to use drones to conduct surveillance, identify
unauthorized settlements and deter poachers in Kaziranga National Park. With
drones spread over 480 square kilometres, they can now identify poachers from
their heat signatures even if they are hiding in thick foliage. Already, this
effort has proved beneficial for the vulnerable one-horned rhino.
If we get it right, then it is not
just our emergency services and endangered species that will benefit. The
economic prize for the UK could also be enormous. By 2030, it is estimated that
there will be 76,000 drones in the skies above the UK and 628,000 jobs in the
UK drones economy. Drones are also expected to contribute to considerable GDP
uplifts in many industries, including £8.6bn in construction and manufacturing,
£7.7bn in wholesale, retail trade and food services and £11.4bn in the public
All the signs are that, in the next
few years, responsible use of drones is set to bring huge gains for the economy
and society. The UK is ready to reap the benefits of cellular-connected drones
technology and if we do then 2020 could be the year that drone technology truly
It would not be a huge stretch to say drones have taken a fair bit of negative press in the last couple of years. Even a casual news reader would have read at least one incident involving a near-miss between an aircraft and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), with the most obvious example being the closure of Gatwick airport for nearly 2 days following reports and sightings of drones near the runway. This incident alone affected 140,000 passengers and circa 1,000 flights costing over £50m to the airport, airlines and various components of the supply chain.
But are drones bad? Are they just an expensive toy? Or
can they deliver tangible benefit in specific scenarios and industries?
In this article, Jonathan Jones and Greg Paton discuss how
and why the insurance industry has adopted the use of drones for claims
adjustment, the benefits to the industry and the customer and scenarios in
which Zurich are deploying drones following a loss.
The use of drones in general is nothing new, the emergency
and armed services have been using drones for decades, and the use of
underwater drones or Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) have been pioneered for even
longer than that.
So, you may ask, what is all the fuss about drones in the
insurance industry? The benefit of utilising drone technology, especially
coupled with high definition camera’s, enables insurers to look at risks when assessing
exposure prior to inception, on ongoing risk engineering evaluations, and of
course post loss incidents in the claims environment. The benefit also stretches
to the assessment for wide area damage such as flooding, storms and civil
” The importance of choosing a reputable partner is highly important to Zurich”
The use of drones has significant benefits for insurers in resource efficiency, which ultimately reduces costs to the industry and the customer. Instead of a costly site visit, involving multiple parties and the expenses associated with this, a post-loss drone survey can take high definition videos and pictures giving parties a vivid picture of the loss in question. These images and videos can be used by loss adjusters and claims professionals to evaluate coverage and make interim payments in a much quicker fashion. At Zurich, we have made substantial interim payments to customers within a few days of a loss based on the extent of damage seen on the drone survey and in accordance with our Claims commitment.
” Zurich have recently teamed up with a company specialising in drone flight, Iprosurv“
It is not only the original drone footage that is of assistance,
given it provides a unique perspective on the extent of damage, it also allows
for accurate measurements to be taken, and 3D modelling to be performed at the
In addition where a building or site is inaccessible, due
to there being a dangerous structure or contamination, then the deployment of a
“disposable” lower cost drone can be agreed, in the event that there is a danger
that the drone might be lost, or indeed contaminated beyond economic
Zurich have recently teamed up with a company specialising in drone flight, Iprosurv, and we have agreed stringent service level agreements, to ensure we can be on site and filming footage in the early stages of the incident, and the drones can help with cause and origin investigations. Since partnering with iprosurv 12 months ago, the Major Loss Team have utilised their services 11 times on claims with a combined estimate of £143.5 million. The nature of these losses range from shopping centres, schools through to social housing fires.
With the average cost of a drone survey in the order of GBP1,500.00 there are clear financial benefits, with the customer engagement opportunities, to showcase, an intangible bonus. The importance of choosing a reputable partner is highly important to Zurich. Whilst drones are fairly new to insurers, they are subject to high regulation within the UK and, part of a consequence of the Gatwick incident, will continue to have the spotlight when it comes to further regulation. Commercial drone operators must obtain a license in order to operate and profit from flying a drone. The risk of injury or damage to a third party or third party property must also be considered, highlighting the importance of choosing a professional outfit when undertaking these surveys.
As of November 2019, all drone operators must undertake a compulsory online test to show they have knowledge and practical understanding of the current regulations and are fit to operate drones in an external environment.
The insurance industry is continuing to embrace
drone technology, but commercial drone operators such as Iprosurv still have so
much more to offer our clients and continue to assist and educate our clients
on the benefits of drones, including
better safety, efficiency, faster turnaround time, and reduced costs. Goldman
Sachs estimates the global drone industry to reach $100 billion by 2020. Given
that insurers today are struggling with an increasing amount of damage from
natural disasters and fraud, plenty of insurance companies are aspiring to be
data-driven organizations. PwC reported that drone technology could help the
insurance industry save as much as 6.8 billion USD annually.
Insurance companies are already turning to commercial drone companies. Drones can play a part in all the stages of the insurance lifecycle, especially claims management and fraud prevention. Drone powered solutions also help with real-time insights, risk monitoring, and assessment, as well as improving customer experience during claims and surge events.
Drones can be used to gather data before a risk is insured, to help in preventative maintenance, and to assess damage after an event. They also allow insurers to engage a generalist, rather than a specialist, to perform field assessments and obtain high-quality visuals. The insurer can achieve significant cost savings through improved efficiency, generating the ROI for investing in drones. Insurers are increasingly using drones for property assessments. Used in the Risk environment drones can help policy holder and insurer formulate a maintenance program over the term of the policy or prior to insurance inception.
Accelerate Claim Management
Insurance companies can assess damage quicker and
more efficiently with drone operations by eliminating the need for multiple
site visits. For example, a drone can help a claims adjuster process three
houses in an hour, whereas without one, an adjuster could process only about
three houses in a day (Farmers Insurance). Drones can increase inspection
efficiency by up to 85%.
Data Touch Points
When a claim
occurs, it can involve multiple stakeholders, Loss Adjusters, Insurers,
Forensics, Structural Engineers, Emergency Services, Local Authorities each one
requiring instant visual data to make key decisions in the progression of the
claim or incident, large amounts of data can be obtained by the use of drone
technology, but the use cases don’t stop there, through the use of advanced
analytics and software’s stakeholders can receive the data in multiple use
formats from basic photogrammetry, 3D modelling, BIMM models. Each stakeholder
may use the same data set in a different way dependent on the information they
Drones can particularly play a significant role
while settling agricultural insurances, as they assess the actual yield and
cultivable land. A drone can gather data on 500 to 1,000 acres in less than a
day, thereby reducing the time it takes to settle claims- from days to hours.
Using drones, Drones have been able to survey three times as many acres as an
adjuster on foot and efficiently account for all of a customer’s crop damage.
Improving Customer Experience During Catastrophes
Inclement weather and challenging to reach
locations, make it cumbersome for insurers to reach, which eventually results
in delay and failure to resolve a large number of claims in a given time. Storms
and floods make up large percentage of insured losses. As seen in the aftermath
of Hurricane Irma, 300 high-rise buildings were inspected by GFA Generali
insurance using drones. The process took just ten days, whereas a ground crew
of the same size would have taken several months.
When appraising property claims, claim adjusters
typically encounter hazardous situations. Drone-mapping is a safer inspection
method. Companies like Iprosurv are making drone roof inspection more efficient
and safer by reducing their exposure to accidents and hazardous conditions. With
the implementation of Iprosurvs Major Loss package insurers, loss adjusters,
forensics, structural engineers and local authorities to name but a few can
have access to vital data to asses interim payments and scope of works all this
can be done without attending the initial site visit when the structure is deemed
unsafe to enter or the site is under a strict health and safety cordon due to
the possibility of collapse or injury to personel.
Bespoke Online Portal.
of the art software and technology we are able to deliver large amounts of data
in user friendly interfaces. With the addition of Iprosurv bespoke portal we
are able to deliver large amounts of data in a safe compliant environment with
multiple stakeholders. The system is setup to be an end to end system for our
clients with multiple touchpoints built in.
If you would like to know more about Iprosurv
please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by visiting our website at www.iprosurv.com.
Drones are helping insurers determine causation quicker.
Drones were the subject of unpopular press following chaos at Gatwick Airport in December 2018, where the devices grounded more than 1,000 flights by repeatedly flying over the airfield. However, drones are playing an increasingly important role within insurance, and are becoming particularly prevalent in the investigation and resolution of claims.
From navigating dangerous accident scenes to more quickly establishing the cause of damage, drones can be integral in reducing the time it takes to reach a resolution for the customer.
Across the industry we’ve heard reports of an increase in fires and fire spread over recent years, spanning from electrical faults to health and safety failures.
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), 2018 saw the highest number of fire claims since records began, with an incurred cost of £1,298m. The changing nature of warehouse storage (open-plan rather than the compartmentation we saw more readily in the past) means that insurance costs for commercial fires can easily exceed the £1million mark.
Just recently, Allianz Insurance saw a claim for a well-known chain store where fire had spread through a large area, completely destroying the building and the stock stored within. With costs estimated to be almost £3million and the business left without any premises, Allianz dispatched a drone to determine causation and establish the extent of the damage; given the sheer size of the affected area, this would have taken far longer without aerial images.
These images picked up by the drone pointed to the fire starting outside. This allowed our investigators not only to establish the root cause of the disaster, but also to understand the layout of the site. This confirmed that policy conditions had been complied with and that the loss was covered. Speeding up the investigation process also led to securing temporary premises for the business more efficiently, which in turn minimised the extent of business interruption. The use of drones often avoids the need for unsightly scaffolding. Allianz chose to use drones in two recent cases involving roof inspection, recognising that the more traditional methods of scaffolding and construction on a property could have been detrimental to business continuity.
When a fire renders a building too dangerous to investigate, drones can provide a safe means of determining causation without putting humans at risk. Allianz came across a recent case where a fire at a popular highstreet store spread to other premises within a shopping street, rendering the building structurally unsound. The roof of the building had caved in as a result of the fire, and so drone use was the only means of safely investigating causation and policy liability.
Drones are a relatively new innovation but their value in the claims investigation process is already being recognised, in helping to reach a swifter resolution for insurance customers.
We are increasingly finding that utilising properly authorised drone operators can determine cause and cost of fire losses much quicker than traditional methods. This enables us to focus investigation efforts appropriately and make early interim payments to enable our customers’ businesses to move on and recover from even the most devastating losses without unnecessary delays.
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