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Insurers using drones to assess damage

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe nonlife insurance industry in Japan is increasingly using small unmanned drones to assess damage suffered in disasters in an effort to enable speedier postdisaster payouts.

Major nonlife insurance company Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance Inc. conducted drone assessments after heavy rain hit the northern part of Kyushu in July and handed out insurance payouts of about ¥100 million in total. The insurance company’s loss adjusters completed the assessments in just two days after arriving there, when it has 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.

Appraisals of damage caused by disasters, including earthquakes and heavy rains, on properties such as houses are typically carried out by loss adjusters of nonlife insurance companies who visit disaster-hit areas.

But the challenge for the industry was to address the delay in payouts compared to 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 July 5, the company flew three camera-equipped drones on July 12 and 13 in the heavily damaged city of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture and conducted an assessment from the sky of about 180 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, July 14. The company then informed those who suffered damage of upcoming payouts. Payments amounted to a total of about ¥108.5 million, the company said.

Among nonlife insurance companies in Japan, Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Co. in May began disaster damage assessment services in which company employees qualified as loss adjusters fly drones, mainly in Tokyo. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co. also carried out drone assessments on a trial basis after the April 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake.

Toshitaka Katada, an expert on disaster information and project professor at the University of Tokyo, said: “Speedy insurance payouts raise disaster-stricken people’s motivation toward reconstruction. Drones are useful in disasters and should be further utilized.”Speech

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