Sometimes it takes a tragedy—maybe even two tragedies—to change a paradigm. But just as Houston and parts of the west coast of Florida will never be the same after the double disasters of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the space of just a few weeks, neither will the insurance business, which has “discovered” how effective drones can be during major emergencies.

Executive Summary

Two damaging hurricanes that made landfall in Texas and Florida this year may change a paradigm, according to Louis Ziskin, CEO of DropIn. With roads impassable, drones are a quick and easy way for insurers to get a full view of what customers are facing and to determine how much effort and money it will take to rebuild, he writes, also suggesting that the efficiency of drone-assisted claims handling can improve the industry's reputation in the eyes of customers.

Already in the midst of the storms and their immediate aftermath, drones are being used to assess damage, look for survivors and determine where repair crews for utilities need to be dispatched. AT&T, for example, is reportedly using drones to detect exact locations for damaged cellular sites that have caused outages for nearly 150,000 Internet, TV and phone customers; Verizon began using them already last October, after Hurricane Matthew. Power companies in both Texas and Florida have been using drones to scope out damage and assess how best to dispatch repair teams, according to local news reports. And the Red Cross has been using drones to provide emergency assistance to Harvey storm victims. (Source: Aug. 31, 2017 article, “Drone Industry Aids Red Cross in Hurricane Harvey Response,” describes FAA-authorized disaster response flights; see also, Sept. 7, 2017 press release from UPS, the Red Cross and drone-maker CyPhy Works, describing a public-private partnership to launch a drone pilot program in a one-week, on-site test—the first Red Cross test using a tethered drone to assess damage after a major natural disaster in the United States.)

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