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State Farm gets approved to fly drones for assessing Hurricane Florence damage




State Farm just got approved as the first insurance company to fly drones beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) and over people. The FAA gave the largest auto and home insurance provider a waiver to use a fixed-wing drone to assess damage caused by Hurricane Florence in four states. The sensefly eBee was chosen because it was determined to be the least prone to damage people and property.

Hurricane Florence

Photo credit: Virginia Tech. According to Forbes, the FAA granted State Farm a waiver to operate BVLOS flights in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia until November 30.

“State Farm needs to quickly assess damage after significant weather events,” says Robert Yi, Senior Vice President – State Farm. “Drone technology provides us with the capability to quickly deploy over a catastrophe site and assess damage from the air. The data we obtain from drone flights can be used to help us determine the severity of damage. This also allows us to place our Claims team on-the-ground and evaluate uninhabitable insured property.”

How did State Farm get approved to fly drones beyond visual line of sight?

In May 2018, State Farm started a collaboration with Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) to reduce risks and assess strategies for maximizing drone potential. According to State Farm’s press release, MAAP collected data on the drone’s communication, performance, navigational precision and risk of injury to humans. The data collected proved to be impressive enough for the FAA to green light State Farm for “conducting sophisticated aerial damage-assessment operations following the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence.”

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