Federal regulators have cleared three of the nation’s largest property insurers to use unmanned aircraft to inspections of everything from hail-damaged roofs to collapsed buildings to flooded neighborhoods.
American International Group Inc. said that it received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to use drones to conduct inspections in the U.S. The FAA previously had approved State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. and United Services Automobile Association, or USAA, to test drones in the U.S., said the Wall Street Journal.
"USAA said that it believed a recent federal policy change would allow it to inspect a catastrophe site as early as this week if needed," the Journal reported.
"But insurers could be constrained by various FAA limits aimed at easing concerns about safety and the potential invasion of privacy," the Journal said. "For instance, the three approved insurers can fly drones over private or “controlled-access” property only with permission from the owner or other authorized party, according to the FAA’s approval letters. Flights also must take place away from airports and most urban areas, during daytime and, in many cases, at least 500 feet “from all nonparticipating persons, vessels, vehicles and structures.”
The insurers said drones will help them inspect areas that are difficult for people to access, such as wind farms and condemned buildings. In particular, the insurers said drones will improve their ability to swiftly respond to claims from hurricanes, tornadoes and floods by providing aerial images of areas claims adjusters can’t get to. They also see drones as a way to reduce injuries from risky roof inspections.
Privacy advocates said they worry that the rise of camera-equipped drones in the U.S. is making it easier for neighbors and companies to spy, the Journal reported.