A small quadcopter drone flying over river landscape with CanadiWisconsin’s American Family Insurance plans to test the use of commercial drones this fall as a way to quicken its response to catastrophes.

American Family’s move into the drone space comes not long after gaining approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test the practice. Plans call for running initial test flights in Madison and then evolving the effort to “real-world” scenario tests down the line, Paul Choi, claims national product director for American Family, said in prepared remarks.

“Drones could supply images to help us more quickly determine the extent of damage, providing information to deploy resources and prioritize our efforts on homes that are worst hit,” Choi said.

As of Aug. 2, the FAA granted slightly above 1,000 exemptions for commercial use of drones to a number of companies, including other insurance carriers, American Family said.

In April, Erie Insurance obtained conditional FAA approval to use commercial drones for its claims and underwriting processes. USAA also joined the drone bandwagon earlier this year, winning regulatory backing to start testing drones as a tool to speed review of insurance claims after natural disasters – an approval similar to one obtained by State Farm in March.

American International Group disclosed in the spring that it obtained the FAA’s OK to start testing drowns as a way to help speed review of insurance claims after natural disasters. AIG said the approval allows it to use commercial drones for risk assessment, risk management, loss control and surety performance for U.S. customers. Similar to USAA and State Farm, the insurance giant will also pursue research and development efforts toward finding the best way to use drones for its customers.

FAA approval is required for drone tests because federal law doesn’t yet allow the use of drones for commercial purposes (though the FAA is working on viable regulations).

Madison-based American Family is the 13th largest property/casualty insurance group, 9thh largest private passenger insurer and 8th largest homeowner’s insurer in the United States.

Source: American Family Insurance