Max Perris is an Agricultural Consultant for Crawford & Company
When it comes to using tech in insurance, it can be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So many claims are made about how technology will enable adjusters to be more efficient and effective but with so much noise in the insurtech space and, regrettably, a number of false dawns, it can be difficult to know who or what to trust.
But taking a conservative, defensive posture in the face of digital progress simply isn’t an option – that is a sure-fire way to get left behind. Which is why at Crawford we carefully analyse, select and trial the range of tools we believe will make a real, practical difference.
This has always been our approach to restoring and enhancing rural lives, businesses and communities and one of the most effective tools we have adopted over the last couple of years is drones.
Think outside the box:
There is an assumption that they are best utilised in flood situations or major loss property claims – basically enabling quick and safe access to areas that humans can’t easily reach. And while that is correct, the applications of drone surveys also go far beyond providing access, as we have found. We started out using drones for flood and property damage claims but recently, we have been using them for core agricultural claims and with impressive results.
For instance, we were recently instructed on an agricultural claim that arose from hailstorm damage to an oil seed rape crop. Just before harvest, the crop was hit by a storm and the hail severely damaged the fragile pods that contain the rapeseed on a large portion of the open fields.
The traditional approach would have been to get the wellies on and measure the perimeters and walk through the entirety of each affected field in a ‘W’ fashion to cover as much of the crop as possible, assessing the severity of damage. Our findings would then be reviewed in conjunction with the combine harvester readouts to try to obtain an estimate of the loss.
Back in 2018, we had discussions with Iprosurv about hailstorm damage to oil seed rape crops and whether drone inspections could assist, and two years later, with this instruction, the perfect claim arose for a trial.
It was fortuitous timing as Iprosurv had recently added new equipment to their drones, namely Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) cameras. In simple terms, these cameras analyse the different light colour spectrums reflected by the chlorophyll within crop vegetation – healthy plants reflect at a different light frequency to damaged or unhealthy plants.
Open Field Claims:
We are the first adjuster in the UK to use NDVI technology on open field claims, so it was a bit of an educated leap into the unknown, but the tech not only gave us a quick and accurate measurement of the damaged crop but also the overall health and expected yield of the standing crop. This allowed us to compare the expected yield with the yield achieved and indeed the ‘expected’ yield claimed by the Insured.
That is a level of detail we have never been able to achieve before and, for an outlay of around £2,000 for the drone survey, footage and imagery, the insurer was able to make a £220,000 saving on the initial amount claimed. While that was something of a difficult conversation with the policyholder, the rationale for the settlement offered was all there in the data. As they say, the data doesn’t lie.
Despite what anyone might think, the main motivation for any insurer in any claim is to get to a settlement that is accurate and fair – using a drone fitted with an NDVI camera allowed us to do that with pinpoint accuracy in a relatively short timeframe.
Such was the success of this, we have started exploring other uses for drone inspections and we believe that it could be of huge benefit in environmental damage, aquaculture, spray drift and forestry claims. We could even use it to analyse the health of a potato crop without having to go through the disruptive, time consuming process of digging up the field. The possibilities are almost endless.