In April 2015, Erie Insurance received conditional approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) — commonly referred to as drones — in our inspections, risk assessment and management, loss prevention and underwriting evaluations.
At Erie, we see drones as high-tech meets human touch. UASs will enable us to provide even better service while keeping a personal connetion. We want to mitigate the current safety challenges for our adjusters who at times can be at risk for accidents or injuries. Drones will help our claims adjusters get an early look at potential damage without putting themselves in harm’s way due to unsafe conditions, such as a steep roof or at the site of a fire or natural disaster. These are the types of situations where small unmanned aerial vehicles can provide a safe and effective alternative that not only permits an inspection, but can fully document the results. The sooner we can get in and assess damage, the sooner we can settle claims and help make our customers whole again so they can move on with their lives. We aren’t looking at them as an end-all-be-all, rather a way to apply innovative solutions to insurance.
In particular, we are testing the DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus quadcopter. It includes a 14 megapixel stabilized camera that can transmit pictures and video. Flights will be operated no more than 35 miles per hour at an altitude of no more than 400 feet about ground level, and always within the visual line of sight of a pilot and an observer.
Our ongoing training, research and development adheres to the FAA requirements, as well as the evolving capabilities of drones. We’re currently training pilots who will be equipped to conduct preflight inspections, handle drones at the right speed and altitude as well as maintain a safe distance from airports and other aircraft. Safety is our top priority. We’re proud to be one of the first insurance companies at the forefront of this next chapter in claims innovation.
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