DRONES AND TECH AND CLAIMS

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Drones have finally made it into mainstream insurance use and what better way to learn about their impact at the front end of the industry than to hear direct from some of the industry’s early users.

We interviewed drone pilots in Canada and Australia and here’s what they said: 

Rohan McPhee and Brett SandersonHomeRepair

HomeRepair has specialised in repairing damaged homes for customers of Australia’s premier insurers since 2002. In June 2020, they deployed an inhouse drone program for roof inspections. We spoke to two of their Building Assessors, Rohan McPhee and Brett Sanderson, both located in Melbourne, Victoria

When did you start flying drones?

Rohan: “Our first flight was on June 17, 2020. We had no prior experience with drones before that other than trying out my son’s toy drone.”

What concerns (if any) did you have when you were introduced to drone technology?

Brett: “Flying in suburban areas worried me as well as possible privacy issues. We have had a couple of minor incidents related to privacy but both were quickly resolved when the party realised we were properly certified.”

Rohan: “My confidence levels were pretty low when I started – I’m not a techie. Also, local gum trees grow to 60m or more and I was concerned about crashing the drone. However, no issues so far!”

What barriers did you/your employer have to overcome to include drone tech in your organization?

Rohan: “Getting ourselves licensed and HomeRepair properly registered with CASA was difficult and took longer than we expected. It was a steep learning curve but we worked it out.”

What difficulties (if any) did you experience when you started using drones?

Brett: “Adapting to new technology was an early problem – I had many questions!”

Rohan: “Learning how to use the equipment and software was an initial problem for me but we had good support from our supplier and quickly got past the issues.”

Do you use software with your drone program?

Brett: “Yes, we use a drone inspection software program.”

How has your job changed since you started using drones?

Brett: “I’ve become more expert in roof inspections – the technology has really broadened the scale of my job. We used to depend on roofers for inspections because we don’t climb higher than one storey but it’s quite different now – we produce accurate reports with insurable damage properly identified. Also, we now quickly pinpoint the cause and origin of interior damages. Roofers tended to just list all the damage and we’ve changed that with the use of drones”

Rohan McPhee

Rohan: “We can identify issues on the spot and this really helps with job cycle times. The ability to get detailed images of problem areas combined with our knowledge of what is insured damage and what isn’t has lowered claims costs for our insurance partners.”

What are the main benefits of drone tech for you/your organization?

Rohan: “Faster turnaround on inspections, improved cycle times, shorter claims life, lower overall cost.”

Brett: “Safety, too. Falling off roofs is often cited but, in my opinion, there’s also a possibility of falling through a weakened or deteriorated roof. So, no climbing and no falling risk any longer! Also, Policyholders love it when we are able to show them roof damage photos and identify issues right away. Having drone tech as part of our service helps make us stand out as it’s still quite new and novel for the public.”

What are the main drawbacks of drone tech, in your opinion?

Rohan: “Field work takes longer because we do more onsite than before; however, the inspection outputs save time back in the office. We’re doing fewer inspections a day but this is offset by more accurate results and greater safety”

Brett: “Battery life is often an issue – charging in the field isn’t always possible and never quick. Also, transferring data can be slow depending on signal strength.”

Overall, how would you describe your experience so far with drones?

Brett: “Very positive – it’s an exciting thing to be involved with.”

Rohan: “Love it!”

 Raymund FloresJS Held

J.S. Held is a global consulting firm with expertise in construction, environmental health & safety, equipment, forensic architecture & engineering, water & fire restoration, and forensic accounting & economics.

Their Canadian office (formerly SPECS Limited) deployed a drone program in June 2018. We spoke with Raymund Flores, Building Consultant /Advanced Operations RPAS Drone Pilot.

When did you start flying drones?

“I started flying in June 2018”

What concerns (if any) did you have when you were introduced to drone technology?

“I had no concerns about the hardware but I was initially concerned about possible risks related to software use.”

What barriers did you/your employer have to overcome to include drone tech in your organization?

“Licensing and certification was tougher than I anticipated; however, I understand and accept that Transport Canada has it like this to ensure safety. In the end, we sorted it out.”

What difficulties (if any) did you experience when you started using drones?

“No real difficulties at all. I recall just once instance when someone objected to the use of a drone near their property but this was quickly and amicably sorted out when they realised we were properly licensed.”

Do you use software with your drone program?

“Yes, we use a drone software program to expedite inspections.”

How has your job changed since you started using drones?

“I thought I’d be climbing roofs when I first started this job – just before the drone program was introduced – and I don’t like heights! Using a drone has certainly made a difference.”

What are the main benefits of drone tech for you/your organization?

“Overall, safety, convenience, efficient estimating procedures, and faster turnaround time are all positive outcomes of our drone program.”

What are the main drawbacks of drone tech, in your opinion?

“Battery life and limited energy sources in the field can be an issue when working in remote areas.”

Overall, how would you describe your experience so far with drones?

“Definitely revolutionary! People just don’t know about the potential of drones in this (insurance) and other industries. There are so many different applications.”

 Tyler LeonardTotal Exteriors

Total Exteriors is based in Alberta, Canada and does all exterior property damages and renovations for residential, commercial and industrial structures. They’re approved contractor for several insurance companies. We spoke to Tyler Leonard, Project Manager

When did you start flying drones?

“My first flight was on April 25, 2018.”

What concerns (if any) did you have when you were introduced to drone technology?

“There were some barriers to overcome around certification, administrative work for flight approvals and so on initially. No issues with hardware, though”

What barriers did you/your employer have to overcome to include drone tech in your organization?

“It really just came down to studying for the Transport Canada certification and flight authorization process but we were well prepared by our training partners and there weren’t any other issues.”

What difficulties (if any) did you experience when you started using drones?

“Preparing for a scan, going to the jobs site, and then actually trusting the software and hardware to operate properly was a challenge at first! It took a while to build confidence in the technology.”

Do you use software with your drone program?

“Yes, we use a drone inspection software program.”

How has your job changed since you started using drones?

“The biggest changes are related to safety checks and set up from my ladder days. Using a drone has really alleviated the stress related to safety. I’ve also seen a boost in productivity. Working in remote areas is a lot easier. Another big plus is that customers are really impressed by the technology – we’re seen as serious professionals compared to a guy with a ladder”

What are the main benefits of drone tech for you/your organization?

“Safety and professionalism really stand out. We’re also seeing a better conversion rate in the private sector.”

What are the main drawbacks of drone tech, in your opinion?

“This goes back to the barriers to entry – certification, flight authorizations, and so on; however, these can also be seen as positives as the regulations help with safety and professionalism. The only other drawback is one has to quickly become comfortable with the drone tech and trust it to work every time.”

Overall, how would you describe your experience so far with drones?

“Personally, it has changed the way I work and how I see my job. The safety side is great and I find using a drone really energizes people. I see myself as a tech guy now and that’s been a game changer for me.”

 Rachelle RobinsonIntact Insurance

Intact Insurance is Canada’s largest home, auto and business insurance company, the choice of more than four million consumers coast to coast. We spoke to Rachelle Robinson, Field Claims Representative, Property.

When did you start flying drones?

“My first flight was on July 9, 2019.”

What concerns (if any) did you have when you were introduced to drone technology?

“My biggest initial concern was confidence – I worried about struggling with the technology and crashing into houses!”

What barriers did you/your employer have to overcome to include drone tech in your organization?

“None, really – overall, it’s been pretty easy. A smooth process once we got through the training.”

What difficulties (if any) did you experience when you started using drones?

“The biggest struggle had been getting flight authorizations. These caused some delays initially but no longer – we have a great track record with Nav Canada and authorizations are quickly given.”

Do you use software with your drone program?

“Yes, we use a drone inspection software program but also do fully manual flights.”

How has your job changed since you started using drones?

“My job has changed quite a bit. I have a lot more independence now that I don’t have to travel with a roofer or climb a ladder myself. I work quicker, safer, and generally do my own thing!”

Rachelle Robinson

What are the main benefits of drone tech for you/your organization?

“Safety for sure. Many adjusters still climb ladders and I’m glad I don’t have to.”

What are the main drawbacks of drone tech, in your opinion?

“I can’t identify a significant drawback. I very occasionally struggle with flight authorizations when working close to airports but that’s about it. I haven’t had a single complaint about privacy issues when flying over property – in fact, the drone attracts a lot of positive attention.”

Overall, how would you describe your experience so far with drones?

“Personally, I love the drone. I can do anything with it and I don’t want to go back to old school processes. Also, I’ve named it Herbie!”