The non-life insurance industry in Japan is increasingly using small unmanned drones to assess damage suffered in disasters in an effort to enable speedier post-disaster payouts.
Major nonlife insurance company Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance conducted drone assessments after heavy rain hit the northern part of Kyushu in July and handed out insurance payouts of about JPY108 million (US$959,600) in total, reported The Yomiuri Shimbun. The insurance company’s loss adjusters completed the assessments in just two days after arriving there, when it had often taken them about two weeks for previous disasters, according to the company.
Sompo Japan Nipponkoa is the first major Japanese nonlife insurance company to have made payouts for natural disasters based on drone assessments. Similar efforts under way in the industry are expected to help rebuild disaster-hit areas as quickly as possible.
The challenge for the industry had previously been to address the delay in payouts in cases including small-scale fires and traffic accidents because adjusters were unable to visit disaster sites due to concerns over secondary disasters or trouble in conducting assessments, even if they visited sites.
The revised Civil Aeronautics Law, which came into force in 2015, prohibits drones from flying over densely populated districts.
However, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa received a permit from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry in June 2016 to fly drones over densely populated districts across the country during disasters and the like, enabling the insurance company to start operating a five-person drone unit in April this year.
After the heavy rain in northern Kyushu on 5 July, the company flew three camera-equipped drones on 12 and 13 July in the heavily damaged city of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture and conducted an assessment from the sky of about 1,800 hectares in no-entry zones, according to the company. Based on the video images, loss adjusters ascertained damage for six cases involving houses, shops and other insured properties and calculated the amount of compensation on the following day, 14 July.