6/26/2015

Droning On

The FFA grants Section 333 exemptions, which mean increased safety for claims professionals.

By Eric Gilkey

Being the gadget guy that I am, I was excited to read about companies in our industry earning Section 333 exemptions from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month. These exemptions enable companies like Rimkus and Donan to use unmanned aircraft systems—what I’ll colloquially refer to as “drones”—in their commercial work. That’s big news for many reasons, but the bottom line is that claims professionals will be safer in the field.

Drones can be used in many ways, which is evident based on the bets both Donan and Rimkus placed on the first type of drone they chose to use.

When it comes to drones, there are two main types: fixed wing and quadcopter.  Donan opted for the fixed-wing exemption in order to operate the Sensefly eBee. Because it’s more like an airplane in the way it operates, its straight-line flying abilities make it highly suitable for surveying commercial, agricultural, and catastrophe claims. Rimkus, on the other hand, went the quadcopter route with the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+. Its helicopter-like hovering abilities make it a good fit for dangerous inspections, such as those experienced in steep-sloped roofs and high exterior facades and walls.

Is the path down which each company embarks simply a matter of preference—a Coke versus Pepsi question? Or is this a 21st century version of the “format war” between VHS versus Betamax? My guess is that there is room for both types of drones in every company’s arsenal, and we’ll see a move in that direction. In any case, I couldn’t be more excited to see what develops and how the technology is used. Based on my interview with Motorist Insurance’s Chief Claims Officer Teresa King (page 47), insurers can’t either.



Eric Gilkey is executive editor of CLM Magazine, a publication of the Claims and Litigation Management (CLM) Alliance. He may be reached at 513-273-8025, eric.gilkey@TheCLM.org.

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