Taking a page from the popular usage-based insurance model in auto insurance, Starr Companies has entered a strategic partnership with SkyWatch.AI to offer telematics-based coverage for unmanned aircraft vehicle, or drone, operators.

SkyWatch.AI’s mobile application is compatible with multiple kinds of drones, it says—helping both business and recreational pilots view potential weather hazards before lift-off in real-time. The vendor’s risk analytics technology, available on an invite-only basis, also calculates a “safety score” leveraging drone telemetry data, which is used as a primary underwriting component by Starr Companies. Other factors include: Area size, coverage duration and proximity to no-fly zones, according to SkyWatch.AI CEO Tomer Kashi. Pilots with drone-related insurance losses in the past 36 months are not be eligible for on-demand coverage.

"Drones are a perfect fit for usage-based insurance,” said Steve Blakey, president and CEO of Starr Insurance Holdings, in a statement. “Since most drones involve operations from a mobile device, they are connected in their nature.”

A 2017 report conducted by the Federal Aviation Agency found more than 2.3 million recreational drones were sold to consumers last year. Yet higher adoption rates also lead to more risk for the general public, the agency noted. Drone-safety incidents, including flying improperly or getting too close to other aircraft, topped out at an average of 250 per month, according to the FAA.. Cited cases included near-collisions described by pilots on airliners, law-enforcement helicopters or aerial tankers fighting wildfires.

Photo credit: Bloomberg

“The use of UAVs is growing rapidly, and SkyWatch delivers the ability for Starr's aviation business unit to effortlessly obtain the proper data, which can be used for better insights on the unique risk a UAV presents," Blakey said.

As more emerging technologies become connected via mobile, the commercial insurer expects to offer similar offerings to customers in the future, he added.. Last summer, Starr Companies partnered with CoverWallet to develop new insurance products optimized for the online market. Through the agreement, the two firms will work together aiming to simplify the click-to-bind process.

Also see: Next step for drones: automated flight

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