Rise of the drones
From delivering pizzas to saving lives, drones are becoming a part of our everyday lives. In Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty’s (AGCS) report, “Rise of the drones: Managing the Unique Risks Associated with Unmanned Aircraft Systems”, addresses the unique risks associated with unmanned aircraft systems.
The first thing that might come to mind thinking of drones is their military application. Unmanned flying weaponry, however, is not a new approach. In the 1860s, balloons loaded with explosives and sent with the prevailing winds towards enemy targets, were used as the first drones.
Today, they have become such an innovative technology that its use has extended to the civilian and commercial sector, becoming a part of our everyday life. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or by the public referred as drones, have the potential to solve problems, improve safety and save costs across a number of industries, throughout the developing world and in disaster relief scenarios.
Looking like a flying robot, drones are piloted remotely on the ground via control stations. Since this is a relatively safe and inexpensive way to get a good “view from above”, UAS are often deployed in situations considered too dangerous for human beings.
A drone can be the size of a micro-surveillance vehicle that fits in the palm of the hand or a 7.5-ton jet-engine-powered aircraft capable of flying 30+ hours non-stop.
The commercial application of drones is increasing as quickly as its technology. Businesses all over the world are discovering ways to exploit drones for their individual purposes.
In the food industry, pilot programs have been carried out in Germany and the United States. Domino’s Pizza in Germany tested drones to deliver pizzas. In the United States, the 7-Eleven convenience store chain just carried out its first commercial delivery, which included coffee and a chicken sandwich.
The freight company DHL tested drones by delivering emergency supplies and medicine from the mainland to the East Frisian Islands.
In the civil humanitarian sector, Africa is planning to use them as a way to deliver blood and vaccines to remote areas, potentially saving thousands of lives. In Brazil UAS are used to monitor agricultural areas in order to uncover the exploitation of slave labour.
As part of its underwriting and claims management, Allianz is using UAS to assess risk and survey damage so that claims can be made more quickly and effectively. In the event of a flood, for example, drones would give the insurer a visual of the situation, so that it can immediately react, and help alleviate damage and distress to both victims and property.
Nevertheless, new technologies always expose new risks. Drones expert and Aviation Practice Leader at AGCS James Van Meter confirms that there have been enough incidents involving UAS to generate concern that the likelihood of collisions and other loss events will grow as numbers multiply. But more drones in the skies not only raise the number of collisions and crashes but also the risk of cyber-attacks and terrorism.
Insurers can protect both operator and the general public from the risk of a mid-air collision as well as damage to persons, property or other aircraft. Safety education is key to ensuring the proper operation of UAS. That is why AGCS has partnered with two of the top US aviation universities – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of North Dakota. In addition, AGCS is a founding member of the UAS Insurance Association, which assists the drone industry in establishing and maintaining safety and risk management.