The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved USAA's request to test how unmanned aerial systems (UAS) could help speed the review of insurance claims from its members following natural disasters.
USAA says it is one of the first insurers to be granted approval for such testing. The San Antonio-headquartered business is family of companies providing insurance, banking, advice, investments and retirement products to 10.7 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families.
In October, USAA filed for a Section 333 exemption to enable more efficient testing of small drones. Prior to the approval, USAA test flights could only take place at FAA-approved sites.
With its granted exemption, USAA can now fly a PrecisionHawk Lancaster HawkEye UAS during the day and within line of sight of a trained pilot and air crew. No aircraft will exceed an altitude of 400 feet, and all flights will continue to be reported to the FAA prior to takeoff.
USAA plans to work with PrecisionHawk to efficiently research and develop best practices, safety and privacy protocols, and procedures as it further develops plans for operational use.
USAA also filed for an additional FAA exemption in November in an effort to enhance USAA’s ability to use drones in catastrophes. That exemption petition is pending approval; USAA expects to hear a decision soon.