UAV HexCopterOne of the nation’s largest home and auto insurance companies plans to launch a program in Iowa next year using drones to inspect property damage after disasters ranging from fires to floods to tornadoes.

Shawn Broadfield, vice president of innovation & claims at Allstate, says the remote-controlled aircraft are small, maneuverable and can carry high-definition cameras to help survey properties and assess claims.

“Tornadoes are a natural disaster that occur quite frequently out there,” Broadfield says. “Damage can be intermittent as well as widespread. Drones can help us assess that damage quickly and cover more of the damaged area, once we’re allowed in it.”

Iowa averages 46 tornadoes a year but in 2004, the state saw a record number — 120 twisters. Severe storms, which can be common in Iowa, are often accompanied by hail, which can cause damage to shingles, siding, windows and more. Broadfield says a drone could be a very useful tool after a hail storm.

“It provides a level of safety for our adjustors, getting to those hard-to-reach places like steep roof lines and not having to go up on a ladder,” Broadfield says. “It gives us a complete picture of the damage. The end result of it all is a quicker claims settlement and getting our customers’ lives back to normal.”

While the company wants to address customer concerns about privacy and safety, he’s hopeful Iowans will accept the use of this promising drone technology as a way to improve service.

“All indications right now are, it’s going to be positive,” Broadfield says. “I think when you don’t have to come out repeatedly to assess damage that you might have missed initially where drones can capture a more complete picture. It’ll speed up the process of payment, speed up the process of restoration for our customers.”

Allstate’s drone program is in the testing phase. Not every adjustor will have one in the trunk of his car, but soon, he says the small aircraft will be used when there’s a need in Iowa and elsewhere.