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Drones and Their Recent Use in Natural Disasters

10 October 2017

Drones have been recently and exponentially employed to significant effect in several industry sectors. Following the miniaturisation of gyroscope, sensor and battery technology, the application of drones has expanded rapidly from the consumer market into various professional and public services.

The insurance industry was one of the first to take advantage of the recent advances in drone development, with start-ups like Kespry offering progressive survey and claims adjusting solutions. This firm employed drones to build high-end 3D models of properties in order to quickly, cheaply and effectively assessing damage, ensuring accuracy and augmenting claim-handling volumes for insurers.

While clearly an effective tool, in this sector, insurers have employed the tech to even greater effect in preventing fraudulent agricultural claims, and more recently have proved drones to be an invaluable tool in the aftermath of widespread natural disasters. In late August, following the damage caused by hurricane Harvey, insurers undertook hundreds of drone-flights per day, thousands per week, to fully assess the destruction, and orchestrate pay-outs, in what has been hailed as the 'widest scale event that we've used drones for to date'.

This effort was not limited to insurers as amongst others, telecom companies too 'took to the air', inspecting infrastructure and ensuring communication lines remained open - a task which would have previously required sending out technicians on a site-by-site basis.

An entire market of 'Drone Solutions Providers', match-maker services and tech start-ups have sprung up, in light of the availability of the advanced fixed-wing and multi-copter systems. Market leader DJI spoke out about its aim to transform the use of drones 'from a hobby to a profession' with the goal of expanding the drone market. The Chinese company has commenced training schemes in order certify hundreds of users every month for kinds of professional drone operation.

Goldman Sachs recently forecasted a total of $100bn to be spent on drones between 2016 and 2020, notably in Construction ($11.2bn predicted), Agriculture ($5.9bn), Insurance ($1.4bn) and Infrastructure Inspection ($1.1bn).

Worldwide legislation has struggled to keep up with developments in the drone sector, with the modern technologies posing significant threats in data-protection, privacy-infringement and terrorism. With this in mind, it is still insecure whether the benefits will outweigh the risks.

One thing is quite certain: in both consumer and commercial markets, there looks to be no shortage of innovation and development in drones.