State Farm seeks UAS exemption to inspect roofs

By Patrick C. Miller | October 27, 2014

State Farm Insurance wants to use small unmanned aerial systems to inspect roofs for damage and is asking the Federal Aviation Administration for a commercial exemption to do so.

In an application filed earlier this month, the insurance company said it wants to use sUAS to “obtain up-close images of State Farm policyholders' roofs and perform an in-depth analysis of the images to determine the nature and extent of damage to the roof surface without placing claim adjusters at risk.”

Using unmanned aerial vehicles will improve safety for State Farms’ claim representatives who must now climb on roofs with ladders to conduct inspections. It will also provide faster, more accurate roof damage assessments, resulting in speedier claims processing and repairs for policy holders, the application stated.

State Farm proposes to conduct roof inspections using the Aerialtronics Altura Zenith ATX8 with Airware's flight control system. Safety features employed will include “geofencing”—which ensures that UAVs stay within pre-defined areas—and a full suite of contingency management functions, user and flight plan management, and approval functionality.

State Farm said that UAS operations will be limited to the customer’s property. It also said the property owner will be notified in advance of an inspection and that the privacy of customers and their neighbors will be protected.

In addition, the insurance company said operations will be conducted within line of sight of the UAS operators. The UAV pilot and observer will be required to complete a vendor training program, a qualification process and the State Farm training process.

“State Farm's use of UAS for roof inspections does not create a hazard to users of the national airspace or the public or pose a threat to national security,” the application stated.