USAA receives FAA exemption to use PrecisionHawk UAV

By Emily Aasand | April 07, 2015

The United Services Automobile Association has received a Section 333 exemption for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, to help speed review of insurance claims from its members following natural disasters.

“Our members have grown accustomed to seeing us pave the way for innovative solutions that streamline the claims process,” said Alan Krapf, president of USAA property and casualty insurance group.

USAA filed for exemption in October, and is now allowed to use PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV). The UAS has a four-foot wingspan and ranges in weight from three to five pounds depending on the payload. According to PrecisionHawk, the flight time of the UAS is 45 minutes, but because of the UAVs design the battery interchange process can be completed in less than five minutes.

“Over the past few months, our teams have worked closely to develop a plan for operational use of the PrecisionHawk UAS. We believe that this technology will help USAA members and make it safer for adjusters who are on-site after a natural disaster,” said PrecisionHawk.  

USAA said it will work with PrecisionHawk to research and develop best practices, safety and privacy protocols and procedures as it further develops plans for operational use.

The San Antonio, Texas-based company said it also filed for an additional FAA exemption in November that will enhance USAA’s ability to use UAVs in catastrophes. That exemption petition is pending approval, and a decision is expected soon, the company added.

“This is a technology that we’ve been looking into for a while now since 2010 and here at USAA, we’re always looking for new and creative ways to assist and serve our membership and one of those is especially during the catastrophe season,” said Kathleen Swain, USAA property and casualty group staff underwriter and FAA-rated commercial pilot and flight instructor. “We saw that this technology was a really good fit for that opportunity to help our membership.”

“We’re proud to be among the first insurers approved to test this technology,” said Krapf. “It’s our responsibility to explore every option to improve our members’ experience.”



For more on the UAS Industry, follow us on Twitter @UASMagazine