State Farm insurance given FAA waiver to fly BVLOS and drone operations over people

US insurance company State Farm (https://newsroom.statefarm.com/faa-drone-approval-for-damage-assessment/) reports that it has been granted a waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights and drone operations over people.

“These provisions are approved over four states impacted by Hurricane Florence; together, they dramatically enhance State Farm’s ability to evaluate hurricane damage and allocate resources. The insurance company has been collaborating with the Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) on one of ten elite teams selected earlier this year to the FAA Integration Pilot Program (IPP). Their successful application for this unprecedented waiver is a testament to the program’s success in facilitating rapid, research-based advances in drone operations to serve communities’ needs.”

“State Farm needs to quickly assess damage after significant weather events,” Robert Yi, Senior Vice President – State Farm is quoted as saying. “Drone technology provides us with the capability to quickly deploy over a catastrophe site and assess damage from the air. The data we obtain from drone flights can be used to help us determine the severity of damage. This also allows us to place our Claims team on-the-ground and evaluate uninhabitable insured property.”

Since May 2018, State Farm has collaborated with MAAP and Virginia Tech’s injury biomechanics group to assess a wide range of potential risks and strategies for reducing them; the team collected data on a variety of parameters including the aircraft’s communications performance, navigational precision, and the risk of injury to humans. The strength of the data made a case to the FAA that State Farm could safely conduct sophisticated aerial damage-assessment operations following the devastating impact of Hurricane Florence.

“This is a pivotal moment that demonstrates the value of a risk-based safety case development process,” said MAAP director Mark Blanks. “Drone technology has tremendous potential to serve the public, but before we can harness that capability we need to demonstrate conclusively that ambitious operations can be done safely. This waiver, and the volume of research that backs it up, shows that this approach works.”

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