Flying high: Drone imagery makes home improvement insurance assessments easier

A DJI Phantom quadcopter UAV for commercial and recreational aerial photography. Image by Capricorn4049 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The COVID-19 pandemic has generated a wide array of new risks for insurance carriers, most notably from home improvement projects. As these companies work to manage these risks in their portfolios, many remain reliant on old workflows.

In terms of the extent of home improvements taking place, according to a NerdWallet Survey, in the U.S. it is estimated that 3 in 5 homeowners made home improvements between March and August 2020, spending $6,438 on these projects on average. Furthermore, 64 percent of U.S. homeowners reportedly renovated the exterior of their home. Such modifications, while important for the homeowners, carry insurance assessment implications.

In order to streamline the insurance assessment process, from the perspective of accuracy and with being mindful of safety, some companies are turning to drone technology within the insurance assessment space.

The application of imagery analytics can be boosted by artificial intelligence to help reduce some of the risk calculations involved in assessing insurance matters.

Trials show how aerial images taken from drones can  provide helpful vantage points from which a wide range of property attributes and environmental risk factors can be determined.

While the use of images can be powerful, a more effective assessment occurs when such images are processed using deep learning models.

The efficiency of this process has been set out in an industry whitepaper from Arturo, an AI-powered platform that derives property insights and predictive analytics from aerial and satellite imagery. The white paper is aimed at the property and casualty (P&C) insurance sector.

The strength of this form of insurtech is with good imaging, computer processing, and the inferences that can be driven from temporal resolution, which refers to a geospatial assessment that reveals how often a particular area’s imagery is re-captured and reprocessed. The higher the refresh rate, the more up-to-date the imagery.

The best designed drones are equipped with imaging tools including infrared cameras; license-plate readers; “LADAR” (laser radar); sensors that gather data about weather, temperature, radiation, or other environmental conditions.

In other related fields, unmanned aerial vehicles are being used to assist in areas of insurance like aerial information gathering, disaster reaction, research and development, underwriting, and support to claims processing.