USAA Seeks FAA Approval to Test Unmanned Aerial Systems


USAA, a family of companies providing insurance, banking, investments and other services to current and former members of the U.S. military and their families, has asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for permission to test unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

The research from the testing would show how UAS can improve how quickly USAA settles insurance claims for its members during natural disasters.

Specifically, USAA says, it is seeking exemption from Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to immediately begin testing small UAS, using industry-accepted best practices and guidelines compiled during research conducted over the past four years.

“We’re constantly seeking ways to better serve our members, especially during catastrophes when getting into neighborhoods immediately after can be dangerous to human life, and applying new technologies is one way we can do that,” says Alan Krapf, president, USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group.

During the testing and research phase, a small UAS from PrecisionHawk would fly during the day within line of sight of a trained pilot and air crew on the USAA campus and privately owned rural unpopulated land around San Antonio.

The pilot and crew would fly the device at no more than 400 feet above the ground and communicate flights to the FAA before takeoff. Data received about structures would be similar to what is found in mapping technologies today, USAA says.

‘We believe this research can lead to safer, quicker and more economical claims service for our members and their communities,” says Kathleen Swain, USAA Property and Casualty Group staff underwriter and FAA-rated commercial pilot and flight instructor. “This research could lead to industry breakthroughs that help make an extremely difficult time for people a little easier.”

USAA says its past research includes work with experts in the UAS industry to learn more about best practices, safety, and privacy protocols and procedures. It also has partnered with public entities and manufacturers to research and develop safe and efficient operation strategies.

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