Farmers Insurance turns to Kespry for roof inspections

By Patrick C. Miller | August 16, 2017

Farmers Insurance isn’t the first company to use Kespry’s unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for roof inspections, but it is the largest and perhaps most important business to embrace the company’s technology.

Farmers recently began using Kespry’s UAS technology to inspect roofs for damage after hail storms and other weather events. The goal is not only to improve safety for claims adjusters who now climb ladders to inspect roofs, but also to speed up the claims process for the insurance company’s customers.

Tim Murray, head of inside and national property claims for Farmers, said that when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last year adopted Part 107 to open commercial airspace for drones on a limited basis, the time was right to employ them as a tool for claims adjusters in the field.

“We’d been exploring the use of drones for about four years, but didn’t really feel like it was a great entry point until the FAA put Part 107 in place,” he explained. “It allowed us to effectively use the technology in a real situation. That’s what propelled us to get down to testing it.”

California-based Kespry will provide Farmers with a squadron of drones designed specifically for use in industrial sectors. The fully-automated system enables Farmers to more quickly and safely gather rooftop imagery and data, generate analytic reports, supplement ladder assist capabilities and resolve more claims with greater efficiency and accuracy.

George Mathew, Kespry chairman and CEO, pointed out that the company’s UAS technology is being used not only for roof inspections by other businesses, but also for biometric stockpile measurements and mine planning.

“We can fully automate key aspects of creating the three-dimensional analysis, creating the measurement of what weather damage looks like and fully automate the experience to improve how a claim is processed by Farmers,” he said.

Another advantage Kespry’s UAS technology provides is that while humans are about 80 percent effective in spotting roof hail damage, UAS are 90 percent effective, according to Mathew. And because of the machine learning model Kespry employs, he said this percentage should continue to improve.

Murray said Farmers looked at a number of service providers before deciding on Kespry, which supplies the drones it manufacturers, the analytical software and the training for Farmers’ FAA-licensed drone operators while keeping the technology up to date.

“One of the differentiators for Kespry was the comprehensive model,” he said. “It makes flying much, much easier. You essentially map out on an iPad where you want it to fly, you press a button and off it goes. The ease of use for our team was actually a significant factor because it allows me to roll out the technology very quickly and get it to the right place.”

As Mathews puts it, “The beauty of Kespry is that we’ve done that heavy lifting—the engineering required to make that experience seamless to the user.”

Kespry addresses privacy concerns by including geofencing in its autonomous flight program. In addition, the company’s drones are equipped with a variety of sensors to keep them flying safely—two of the reasons Murray said Farmers’ customers have responded positively to the use of drones for roof inspections.

However, Farmers will continue to give customers the option of having their roofs inspected the old-fashioned way.

“We’re not going to impose the technology on anybody,” Murray said. “We found that people were really open to it and really excited about having the technology at their home, but we’re willing to do the inspection however the customer wants us to do it.”