Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV or drone) operated in a safe manner by a well-trained pilot, can add value to property inspections. But, when considering adding aerial photos to property inspections, what should insurance carriers and cover-holders ask of vendors?
It helps to understand the capabilities and limitations of drones. Photos taken from a drone in-flight can provide an underwriter with a wide view of a risk and adjacent exposures, close-up of roof condition, and (with sophisticated software) mapping of topography. For a claims adjuster, drone imagery can provide dwelling damage information located in an area with restricted access.
However, if you’re looking for a low cost way to achieve a thorough understanding of a risk, drone imagery may not be the answer you’re looking for. When carefully considering costs, potential users quickly realize that cost of equipment is relatively small. The cost of a well rounded program can quickly escalate. Costs to consider include; FAA registration & licensing, initial training, continuing education (both skills and legislative updates), safety programs, property owner approvals and potential losses resulting from drone operations.
Conventional aircraft pilots (both civil and commercial) engage in initial training that begins well before they take command in-flight. On the other hand, drone pilots are inclined to fly their new drone the moment they unbox their new drone. Shortly thereafter they have their first in-flight accident. Most of these accidents result from a phenomenon that is trained out of conventional pilots over a long period of time. That accident happens when new pilots encounter adrenaline induced reaction to a pending threat. Spend some time on YouTube and you’ll see the results.
If you’re an underwriter wanting a thorough understanding of dwelling roof condition, drone imagery only provides some of the information. Drone imagery usually won’t capture all damage from small hail to shingles, gutters, flashing, decking and number roof covering layers. Drone imagery will provide evidence of large hail and wide-spread shingle granule loss.
Top Six Questions to Ask Drone Operation Vendors:
1. What does your drone pilot training program include?
–FAA licensing, registration and regulation training?
–Flight safety operations and number of hours?
–Adverse flight condition recovery and first aid?
2. Do you have a continuing education flight training and safety program?
3. How do you ensure that aircraft are well maintained and each pilot operate in a safe manner?
Do’s and Don’ts
Do inspect your aircraft before flight.
Do use a pre-flight condition and safety checklist.
Do take lessons before you fly for the first time.
Do register your aircraft with the FAA.
Do become FAA certified to fly for commercial use.
Do become familiar with FAA airspace regulations.
Do fly under 400 feet and under 100 mph.
Don’t fly near airports or manned aircraft.
Don’t be careless are reckless.
Don’t fly drones weighing more than 55 lbs.
Don’t operate your drone beyond your line of sight.
Don’t fly near or over people or stadiums.
Mike Beattie is a licensed pilot of civil, manned, fixed wing aircraft and unmanned rotary wing aerial vehicles with over 1,000 hours of safe operation.