BY NEAL UNGERLEIDER
One of America’s largest insurance companies has an unorthodox proposal: using unmanned aircraft to speed up insurance claim processing. USAA, which serves millions of U.S. military personnel and their families with financial services, formally petitioned the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on October 2 for permission to use drone aircraft to process insurance claims. The USAA says that flying unmanned aircraft over natural disaster areas where claims have been filed could potentially benefit their membership.
Kathleen Swain, a underwriter at USAA who is also a licensed pilot and flight instructor, told Fast Company that the insurance agency wants to fly PrecisionHawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over disaster areas in order to research claims. By flying a drone over disaster areas, the insurance company could potentially research claims much more quickly and cheaply than they could on foot, via car/truck, or via helicopter–which could speed things up in areas where roads are inaccessible. PrecisionHawk is also developing drones designed for use on farms and for surveying and mapping as well.