The insurer has been operating the vehicles for claims purposes with FAA approval since 2019.
State Farm’s official newsroom published a release stating that while it has been flying insurance drones with FAA approval since 2019, it has now been granted permission to do so over active streets and roads.
The insurer received this approval based on Virginia Tech testing, for use to gather claims information.
State Farm has been using insurance drones for various types of safety and business application testing since 2015. In May 2018, the insurer joined the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech to research drone safety. Since that time, the Commonwealth of Virginia has been one of 10 selected teams for participation in the FAA Integration Pilot Program (IPP). Since State Farm is a member of the Virginia IPP team, it has been working with MAAP for conducting assessments on a spectrum of types of risks as well as in the effort to mitigate those risks.
In 2019, the insurer became the first company in the United States to receive a waiver from the FAA for conducting drone operations over people (OOP). This waiver also permitted flights beyond the pilot’s visual light of sight (BVLOS) in order to conduct catastrophic assessments. The waiver remains active until November 2022.
Other limited time waivers were also granted to State Farm for hurricane impact assessments for specific geographical areas.
The experience with insurance drones has made it possible for State Farm safely fly them over roads.
Flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over moving vehicles (that is, over roads and streets) is not legal in urban and suburban areas. The FAA has prohibited it. The reason is that if there is a loss of control and the UAV strikes a moving car or truck, it could injure occupants and/or lead to a crash.
State Farm’s use of UAVs for claims assessments is heavily based on research from Virginia Tech, which shows that the way its UAVs are operated and supported by added safety features such as parachutes, poses minimal risk to moving vehicles, and the FAA agreed.
Flying insurance drones in areas where there are streets and roads makes it possible for the insurer to improve its homeowners claim handling while ensuring that UAVs are being safely deployed over moving vehicles.