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On October 10th, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4. On October 12th, the FAA updated their website to warn drone operators against flying in the area, as it could interfere with rescue and recovery missions. However, that does not mean residents of affected areas haven’t seen any drones overhead.
In another post, we explored the different ways in which drones are facilitating inspections in various industries, such as construction and real estate. Because of the damages caused by Hurricane Michael, people have witnessed in real time, drones acting as inspectors for their insurance agencies. Essentially, they are using drones to make insurance assessments. Insurance companies have been using drones to assess property damage caused by the hurricane.
It has been said before that piloting a drone can be more efficient than a human alone, but most importantly, it minimizes the risks that a human inspector would take on if they were to assess damages personally. At that level of damage, sending drones is quicker and safer than trying to send a person who'll have to navigate through the destruction. WPTV reports that insurance claim inspectors also affirm drones’ usefulness, stating that what a drone can do in minutes, a person could take up to two hours to complete in terms of damage assessment.
At the forefront of large-scale drone-based insurance inspectors are State Farm’s claims pilots. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted State Farm a waiver that allowed them to use drones “over people and flights beyond the pilot's line of sight." On October 16, the State Farm newsroom published an article stating that after Hurricane Florence,
“State Farm was the first and only insurance company to receive an FAA waiver allowing Claims pilots to operate drones beyond visual line of sight and over people for damage assessment. Drone flights were coordinated with the FAA and Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech as part of the Integration Pilot Program for large-scale damage assessment in Virginia and South Carolina.”
After Hurricane Michael, State Farm continued to put their claims pilots to work and released a statement saying that, "the Tallahassee area will serve as one of the first populated sites for an insurance company to see unmanned drone flights for large-scale damage assessment following Hurricane Michael."
Aside from inspections and insurance, drones are being used for other services and industries in the aftermath of the hurricane. Duke energy used drones to determine where they would deploy repair crews and equipment and to assess how long it would take to make those repairs. Also, AT&T deployed drones to provided cell phone service to survivors and relief efforts. All in all, drones continue to be an asset commercially and to communities.
I am a writer and an artist based in Georgia. Specializing in illustration, graphic design, and video art, I love to explore the new ways technology intersects with art. I think drones have done amazing things for photography and video art, making what would previously be costly and difficult more accessible. As a complete novice, it was only recently that I saw what independent artists could do with their drones, and I continue to be impressed by the sights that drones are able to explore and the images they can capture. Instagram: @tyesha.ferron