Drones take their place in the insurer’s toolbox

By Kristian Orispää, If

Today, drones are used by individuals, industry, as well as government entities, to execute a variety of tasks and purposes. From conducting building safety inspections to gathering data over disaster areas, drones are becoming an essential tool for various industries for a variety of purposes.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, also take to the skies more and more often to support insurers in their daily work. Serving specific purposes, such as data collection to support claims handling, drone technology is utilized around the world in insurance related fieldwork.

From risk management, to investigations and claims, there are many opportunities for drones to increase efficiency and accuracy for insurers. Alongside expediating the collection of information, drones offer a cost-efficient way to cover a lot of ground.

When investigating an accident, dozens of manhours are saved with aerial support as difficult terrains are easily traversed and unsecure areas can be investigated by insurers, without having to physically reach them.

Growing demand

According to Tor Andre Breivikås, Head of Task Force Intelligence in If’s Investigation Unit, “The use of unmanned vehicles such as drones (air), robots (land) and ROV (subsea) has increased in recent years. In particular, we have seen a growing interest specifically in large industrial, commercial and private claims, as well as in investigations where there is a special need to document and collect the facts. If P&C Insurance is most commonly utilising drones, robots and ROVs in Norway, however we also see that Sweden and Finland have started to use drones in various cases.”

Tor Andre Breivikås explains that typical cases with very successful results are in connection with major fires and natural disaster events. “Within investigations, the use of drones and robots has been absolutely crucial in order to be able to make the correct decision in cases related to both fire investigations and traffic incidents. If has also had the crucial benefit of drones entering dangerous areas that are life-threatening to enter.”

Great advantages

“The use of drones and robots has taught us, that they not only provide very good, high-resolution images from any position or angle, but a drone can also be used to map terrain, buildings and areas. The collected data can then be used to create completely fresh and up-to-date maps and 3D models.”

As noted earlier, advantages go beyond high-resolution images. Tor Andre continues, “drones can also be mounted on other types of sensors such as thermal, IR or gas sensors to detect heat leakages or dangerous gas concentrations, they can also be used to transport objects from A to B, or we can use a robot to pick up or deliver an object where it is not possible or justifiable for one human to enter.”

Drone evolution

Drones are commonly operated by service providers who are highly specialised experts, that can conduct demanding operations with UAVs that carry the latest technologies. According to various sources, this market is expected to exceed 50 billion euro by 2025. Meanwhile, UAV technology continues to evolve at an accelerated pace.

While the early UAVs featured a basic remote-control solution with a fixed mount camera, the latest technologies include automated operation (e.g. take-off and landing) and safety modes, full autonomy and more. Smart drones today include safeguard mechanisms and self-monitoring functionalities, with added safety and efficiency features.

UAVs have proven to be very versatile, for example when inspecting sites with environmental impacts. Flying over landslides or flooded areas, drones can capture 360-degree video, still images and more. When equipped with sensors, they can be used to measure various parameters, such as heat, or collect data for 3D modelling.

Article published in Risk Consulting 2/2021