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Why one insurance firm wants to start using drones

Drone with camera
Buena Vista Images | Getty Images
Drone with camera

The claims adjuster for your insurance policy may soon get a boost from a drone.

USAA, a San Antonio-based insurance company, wants to begin testing unmanned aircraft to see how they might be able to speed up the claims process in the case of a natural disaster. The company recently filed a request for permission with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"One of the areas we are looking to use these in is before and after natural disasters," said Kathleen Swain, USAA property and casualty group underwriter and FAA-rated commercial pilot.

"It's sometimes much quicker to get the machine out to these disaster zones than a human body.This could help speed up the process and help put them back to where they were before the claims event," Swain said.

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Swain said the technology would not be used to replace a human in the process, but rather the devices would be used in collaboration with claims adjusters.

USAA filed for permission to begin testing last week, and by law the FAA has to respond within 120 days. If approved, the company will use five pound drones made by PrecisionHawk and will do all testing on the USAA campus and privately owned land in San Antonio that is unpopulated. A call to the FAA was not returned.

The FAA has kept a pretty tight reign on the use of commercial drones in the U.S. But the organization has increasingly come under pressure from numerous industries, as well as Congress, to implement the infrastructure so that drones can be used for business purposes.

Until recently only a handful of companies operating in the Arctic have the FAA's permission to operate drones commercially.

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In September, however, the U.S. government gave six movie and television production companies permission to use drones for filming.

Tech giants like Amazon and Google hope to someday use the technology for deliveries and other industries like real estate companies aim to use the unmanned aircraft for photography.

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