Mark Matthews takes an alphabetised look at the use of drones in the world of risk management.
Small, unmanned aerial vehicles, more commonly known as drones, are widely available for commercial use. While drone technology has been around for a number of years, its application for the insurance sector is still being explored.
As a specialist insurer of heritage and listed properties, Ecclesiastical might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of drones. However, historic and ornate structures present unique access and maintenance challenges.
Drone technology is enabling us to survey properties like never before. Using the technology to view inaccessible
parts of the buildings we insure allows us to zoom in on specific features and identify issues that would not be seen using traditional surveying techniques.
Photogrammetry captured by the drones creates detailed inspection imagery and 3D building information models (BIM). These high-quality images provide surveyors with insights and incredibly accurate measurement data in a level of detail that we have not been able to capture before. Combined with more than 130 years' experience of working with these buildings, it becomes a powerful tool for supporting customers with more tailored loss prevention guidance.
Condition surveys carried out so far have revealed damaged and loose slates, tiles and stonework, blocked and defective gutters, significant areas of missing pointing and flat roof ponding. All of which could result in water ingress, potentially causing further damage to the structure and its contents.
The technology has been deployed across a variety of locations including churches, schools and heritage properties, improving our ability to assess the immediate and longer-term risks for our customers.
We are also able to calculate reinstatement or restoration values with more certainty.
However, the benefits extend beyond risk management. The 3D BIM is a valuable tool to claims departments in the event of a major loss. The images and data captured from our risk assessments provide excellent detail to support the restoration and reinstatement of architectural features. This is particularly important when you are dealing with properties that are part of the history of our country.
There are also benefits to our customers. A church in Halifax has been able to use the imagery to strengthen its application for funding to support essential repairs to the building. While a survey at Worcester Cathedral removed the requirement for the installation of expensive scaffolding to assess the condition of the tower.
While the technology is widely available, flights are subject to Air Navigation Orders and must be conducted responsibly. Recent events at Gatwick have shown the impact that a rogue drone can cause. The Civil Aviation Authority has jurisdiction on UK airspace and its permission is required prior to any commercial drone flight. It is also important to check the competency of your pilot; they must be certified by a National Qualified Entity.
The information captured using this technology complements our in-house risk management operation. It has far-reaching benefits for the insurance sector. However, capturing the data using drones is only useful if you have the knowledge and expertise to understand what you are looking at.
Mark Matthews risk management director at Ecclesiastical