The use of drones during and after natural disasters continues to rise as seen with a recent authorization by the Federal Aviation Administration for State Farm Mutual Automobile Association Co. to operate foam fixed-wing aircraft (a SenseFly eBee). The drone will be used to asses damage from Hurricane Florence.

State Farm is the first insurance carrier to receive permission from the FAA in general and for the specific purpose of evaluating the damage caused by hurricanes. The authorization grants State Farm to conduct flights with the eBee over four states affected by Florence.

The authorization was granted based on the results from State Farm’s research with Virginia Tech’s Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership. This is only the most recent of the UAS Integration Pilot Programs joint public/private research programs to escape the lab. As part of the authroization, State Farm will be allowed to fly their drones long distances over populated areas.

As floodwaters battered the coast for days during Florence, many of the most impacted areas will remain underwater or inaccessible by ground transportation for unknown periods of time. Drones provide a new affordable way to calculate and record data in areas affected by natural disasters that not too long ago was only capable by using expensive helicopters or small planes.

Senior VP at State Farm, Robert Yi, sees drones as a natural fit for the circumstances created by natural disasters. “Drone technology provides us with the capability to quickly deploy over a catastrophe site and assess damage from the air,” Yi said.

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