Drones Give Travelers Lift in Matthew Response

Travelers has deployed about 60 catastrophe response professionals trained on drone technology to areas affected by Hurricane Matthew. The company's SVP of claim, Patrick Gee, says that the company's mature drone program is already paying off in more efficiency and a safer experience for claims professionals.

"Whenever you climb ladders there's a risk of an accident occurring, and with certain steep roofs, we had to contract an external company that had the right kids of harnesses and equipment, sometimes even requiring a second visit," Gee says. "But we are finding our use of drones is providing all the information we need."

Travelers had been preparing for new FAA rules, which came this summer, in advance of the announcement, so it could hit the ground running as soon as the regulations were relaxed. By August, Gee says, the group of about 60 claims professionals were up to code and ready to roll with the technology.

"We wanted to get our first group trained and out in the field. Literally, within a few weeks of the new rule 107 we had about 30 drone pilots trained, and now we have about 60," he says. "We have a large portion of the trained group on our CAT teams that are regularly deployed at losses around the country. spreading them out to assess a wide variety of types of damage."

The first big field test came after a hail event in South Texas, but Matthew is a higher profile use case. With a high volume of claims, saving time in creating a plan for getting onto roofs safely -- not to mention setting up equipment -- is crucial toward meeting customers' expectations.

"A key part of our process is to have the same property claim professional be able to utilize the drone so it's really one-stop shopping for our customers in terms of estimating the loss and making payment," Gee explains. "We're very encouraged, both for events in Texas and Hurricane Matthew."

Travelers uses drones from several different manufacturers. Gee says that important components of the technology like image fidelity and ease of use are advancing at an impressive rate. So, the company is remaining device-agnostic for the time being.

"You have to think about, when you start a program like this, how you handle things like replacement parts or other logistics all around the company. There's a new version of drone hardware almost every month, if you take all manufacturers into account," he says.

Drone training takes place at Travelers' Claim University near its Hartford headquarters, as well as other areas around the country. The company employs about 1,500 total claims professionals and is prioritizing training based on who is most likely to encounter external damage.

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