State Farm has become the first company in the U.S to be granted a national waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowing it to conduct damage assessment using drones.
The waiver authorises State Farm to conduct drone operations over people (OOP) and flights beyond a pilot’s visual line of sight through November 2022, which are currently restricted by FAA regulations.
Drone technology can enable insurers to assess the damage caused in a catastrophe situation even when access to an impacted area may be challenged by water, debris and damage to infrastructure.
By suspending regulations for State Farm, it’s possible that the FAA has opened the door to other insurers and reinsurers looking to start using drone technology as part of their operations.
“It’s been a team effort to make drone technology a reality,” said Robert Yi, Senior Vice President for P&C Claims at State Farm.
“The waiver will provide our claims specialists with another way to efficiently help customers,” he continued. “We can use drones to assess on-the-ground damage and deploy resources. This is a huge win for our customers and demonstrates we’re recognized as a leader in drone technology.”
Previous waivers granted to State Farm limited the company’s drone usage to short time frames and to specific geographic areas impacted by hurricanes.
The company noted that newly issued waiver also opens up innovations by allowing for longer distance flights.
Mark Blanks, Director for the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech, further commented on the waiver announcement: “There are many possibilities for the use of drones but FAA regulators need to be assured that operations can be conducted safely.
“State Farm had a compelling proposal for how drones could improve their customer experience and an unwavering commitment to safety. MAAP had the operational expertise and the research experience to help them navigate the approval process and collect supporting data. This success shows how powerful it can be when industry and academia collaborate to break new ground.”
State Farm has been working with MAAP for nearly two years on drone safety case research and intends to continue to collaborate on exploring ways use this technology in catastrophe response, emergency management, and infrastructure inspection.
“I’m proud of the teamwork demonstrated in making a nationwide waiver a reality at State Farm,” said Mark Oakley, Senior Vice President for Labs at State Farm. “The partnership between Claims, Labs and Virginia Tech has been integral in getting us to this point.”
“As the first and only company to secure a nationwide waiver to date, this is a substantial achievement and testament to the skills, knowledge, passion and commitment of these teams,” he added. “We strongly believe the waivers provide us with the ability to explore new and exciting opportunities for State Farm.”