Despite social distancing precautions to “flatten the curve” during the COVID-19 pandemic, nature provides no respite from natural disasters and severe weather events. Property inspections for insurers and third-party administrators (TPAs) must continue unabated by the restrictions placed upon us by this new viral threat, especially as we move towards hail season, when property damage typically reaches its yearly apex.
Even before we found ourselves in our current situation, “touchless” drone-based roof inspections were steadily increasing as insurance providers and TPAs quickly realized they could improve accuracy and customer transparency by utilizing autonomous aerial vehicles.
In the wake of recent restrictions from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—as well as federal, state and local officials—many of these companies are implementing a fully-touchless inspection model that enables inspectors to continue to perform necessary functions and comply with a disparate patchwork of new guidelines.
Drone-based inspections enable the inspector to arrive at the location and dispatch the drone without any interaction with the occupant or property owner. All communication between the two parties takes place before the inspection via phone, text or email as they agree on a time and date for the inspection and electronically sign the necessary documents.
Once on-site, the inspector can alert the occupant or owner via text message that they have arrived to complete the necessary inspection. The drone is then deployed, and a text is sent to alert the on-premises parties that the work has been completed. The socially distant property inspection is complete, and each individual has remained faithful to public health guidelines.
From there, the data and images gathered by the drone are sent to a cloud-based drone analytics platform. The software uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the data and still photos to create highly accurate 3-D models and property-wide views. The resulting information is emailed to the relevant parties and any claims decisions can then be made.
Follow-up communications are then conducted through an online meeting or phone calls, and all subsequent documents are delivered electronically. From scheduling the inspection to the delivery of claims documents, no one will have physically met or broken the six-foot distancing rules.
We all want to see shuttered businesses reopened and a return to life as we knew it before COVID-19. Insurance is, after all, a community- and people-centric industry. But for the time being, touchless drone-based inspections provide a way to continue necessary work while ensuring everyone remains safe, protected and secure. Drones not only decrease the likelihood of viral transmission, but alleviate potential liability concerns related to infections resulting from contact between inspectors and clients.
We must all remain personally and professionally responsible for helping to limit the transmission of the novel coronavirus. We must also continue to provide essential services in times of crisis. Implementing touchless drone-based inspections helps keep us safe, but also provides a significant competitive differentiator for insurers and TPAs in the future. Given current economic conditions and forecasts, businesses that survive will be the ones who demonstrate a willingness to embrace change and the flexibility required to deliver on customer expectations and promises even in the most trying of times.