AP photo
AP photo

Specialty property insurer Hartford Steam Boiler won an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to start using drones for property inspections, underwriting and loss prevention work.

The Munich Re-owned entity has now joined a growing club of insurers testing or using drone technologies for claims and underwriting processes. In 2015 alone, carriers including Erie Insurance, AIG, USAA and State Farm gained FAA approval to explore commercial drone use in these areas.

HSB, an engineering and technical risk insurer, plans to use commercial drones, with property owners’ consent, to inspect locations otherwise unsafe or inaccessible. They’ll also be used to enhance regular insurance claim and underwriting work.

Jay Jablonski, vice president, HSB Professional Loss Control, told Carrier Management via email that the insurer first filed for its commercial drone exemption at the end of May 2015 – nearly a year ago. The FAA requested some additional information last September and a formal approval came through in mid-February, he said.

Jablonski explained that HSB will use drones to support its own underwriting and claims processes, but also for client companies or insurance partners.

“As HSB is an Inspection and Insurance Company, being able to improve our inspections is very important to us,” Jablonski said. “In addition to using drones for visual inspection (photographs and videos) of equipment and properties, we will use the drones to assist in energy audits and equipment condition inspections.”

Jablonski added that the commercial drone use will be paired with data analytics to gather data on its own policyholders and client insurance companies “much more efficiently than we can now.”

HSB hopes to expand its use of commercial drones over time. Part of this longer-term strategy includes plans to file an amended request with the FAA that would let the insurer use any of the more than 1,100 drones on the FAA’s approved Unmanned Aerial Systems list, something Jablonski said will give it more flexibility in drone selections.

“As we continue to use drones, I believe we will discover opportunities to use [them] to improve our efficiencies in inspections,” Jablonski said. “We will be researching possible new uses to support our operations through new and different sensors, improving data analytics and partnering with others in the associated fields.”

Source: Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company