Fatal falling debris accident prompts push for drone inspections
By Amy Yensi
Just days after Erica Tishman,
a renowned architect, was killed by falling debris in midtown, some city
officials are proposing a new law they say will help prevent similar accidents.
It would require the
department of buildings to conduct a drone inspection within 48 hours of a
complaint or violation.
“This is not a toy, but
it’s a tool. These tools will save millions of dollars. It would save time, but
most importantly it could actually save lives,” said Brooklyn Borough President
The legislation would also
authorize the city housing authority to use drones for its building
The proposal’s goal is to
detect problems and possibly hazardous conditions.
Tishman was walking along 49th
Street last Tuesday when a piece of facade came crashing down from a building
that had been fined back in April.
City Councilmen Justin Brannan
and Robert Cornegy said lawmakers must act because drone use currently is only
legal inside state parks.
They point to the lack of
manpower at the buildings department to keep up with the thousands of
structures that have violations, or in need of repair.
“In speaking to them very
recently, one of their ideas is that we’re going to add more inspectors. That’s
only one part of this and only one component to what’s necessary,” said
The proposal would authorize
private companies to offer the inspection services to building owners who would
have to pay the bill — a more cost-effective option, according to the Brooklyn
City officials say the current
laws regulating airspace date back to 1948, long before this drone technology
existed. They’re hoping to ease those laws, get them up in the air, and inspect
city buildings as soon as possible.
A maintenance company which admitted breaching health and safety laws after Tahnie Martin was killed by debris blown off a roof by Storm Doris was subsequently fined £1.3 million.
Tahnie Martin, who worked at the University of Wolverhampton, died on February 23 2017 after she was struck by wooden debris while walking past a cafe in Wolverhampton city centre.
The 29-year-old, from Stafford, was walking along Dudley Street with colleagues when a large piece of roofing flew from a building.
Mother-of-two killed by stone gargoyle that fell three stories off historic church in Chicago.
Sara Bean, 34, was walking to lunch with her fiancé when she was hit in the head by the falling stone
The mother of two was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
In May last year the RICS published an insight paper ‘Drones: applications and compliance for surveyors’ providing guidance on the issues relating to varied uses UAVs or unmannned aerial systems (UASs).
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.
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’.
Benefits and Issues
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
For most people, their home is their biggest
asset, but let’s say you are business owner – would it be fair to
say that the business is your biggest asset. When we say asset we mean of
course it’s people, it’s buildings, it’s machinery and it’s stock. Progressive
use of drone technology means it is now much easier to ensure all aspects of risk
to any asset of any business are improved. To put it more simply drones can
protect people and businesses.
We look at an example below where drone imagery played part of a larger customer proposition providing greater insights for the broker, customer and insurer tailoring a policy around the customers requirements and assisting with an inherent building defect which, once identified and rectified led to an improved underwriting risk.
Aston Lark Case Study: Risk Management – Aerial Drone Survey
A book printing client in Suffolk has grown dramatically over the past 150 years, having grown from a single building to an array of buildings covering a 600,000 sq ft area. The buildings have been constructed without access to roof spaces and therefore inspecting the condition of their roofs and guttering was extremely difficult and dangerous.
Aston Lark carried out an aerial survey using the latest drone technology. We were able to offer our Client a close-range inspection of their roof and other areas of their buildings not easily visible or accessible from the ground.
Watch the video to see how we work closely with our clients to manage risk.
Following the aerial survey, we provided the client with high-definition quality footage and stills which are presented in a 3D interactive tool. This enables the Client to view the entirety of their building and zoom in on areas of concern to within a foot. This ultimately enabled our Client to identify areas of concern and take remedial action before it caused further problems and cost.
To find out more about Aston Lark’s Risk Management offering and how it can benefit you, click here.