Virginia Tech, Insurance Company Partner on Damage Surveys by Drone

Sep 24, 2018

Virginia Tech is about to launch a series of drones that will take a new and unprecedented role in the recovery from Hurricane Florence.

Two problems have vexed the use of drones in responding to natural disasters: you can’t fly them out of a line of sight, and you can’t fly them over people. Now Virginia Tech and State Farm have received an unprecedented waiver from the federal government to bypass those restrictions and help in recovering after Hurricane Florence. Todd Binion at State Farm says this will revolutionize insurance claims.

Thomas Jones, a program manager with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, launches a lightweight drone during tests with IPP partner State Farm.
Credit Virginia Tech Photo

“In one flight and in some cases on a single battery we can land and have imagery that helps us to make some of those kinds of decisions for many properties at one time, for many insured properties at the same time.”

Mark Blanks at Virginia Tech says this technology has been in the works for some time.

“People think that this just happened suddenly — Hurricane Florence popped up and we got this huge new approval. But really this is a project that’s been in coordination for more than a year. We’ve been collecting data on this and trying to make sure that all the potential risks were mitigated.”

The drones are expected to be launched in the next few days, assessing damage and evaluating property that’s so badly damaged it’s uninhabitable by humans.

Radio IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.