The FAA has granted insurance giant State Farm the first national waiver for drone flights for damage assessment. The waiver permits flights operations over people (OPP) as well as beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) through November 2022. State Farm previously received waivers under much shorter timelines and was typically restricted to areas impacted by hurricanes.

“It’s been a team effort to make drone technology a reality,” says Senior Vice President for P&C Claims Robert Yi. “The waiver will provide our claims specialists with another way to efficiently help customers. We can use drones to assess on-the-ground damage and deploy resources. This is a huge win for our customers and demonstrates we’re recognized as a leader in drone technology.”

However, it took some time to get here. For the last two years, State Farm worked with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) at Virginia Tech on drone safety case research. In May 2018, the Commonwealth of Virginia was selected as one of 10 teams chosen to be part of the FAA Integration Pilot Program (IPP). As a member of the Virginia IPP team, State Farm worked with MAAP to assess a wide range of potential risks and strategies for reducing them, State Farm said. Several tests were done using SenseFly’s fixed-wing eBee Classic drone.

“I”M proud of the teamwork demonstrated in making a nationwide waiver a reality at State Farm,” says Mark Oakley, Senior Vice President for Labs at State Farm. “The partnership between Claims, Labs and Virginia Tech has been integral in getting us to this point. As the first and only company to secure a nationwide waiver to date, this is a substantial achievement and testament to the skills, knowledge, passion and commitment of these teams. We strongly believe the waivers provide us with the ability to explore new and exciting opportunities for State Farm.”

Looking towards the next few years, members of the Virginia IPP team will continue exploring innovative ways to safely use drone technology for catastrophe response, emergency management, and infrastructure inspection. The day-to-day operations of the Virginia IPP team are managed by MAAP, State Farm said.

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