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Old Mutual ropes in drones

The oldest insurer in the country is about to get the most modern image in the industry, as it deploys drones to assist with insurance claims.

Old Mutual claims it will soon be the first South African insurer to deploy the commercial use of drones, together with drone mapping technology and photogrammetry. 

Old Mutual iWYZE, underwritten by Old Mutual Insure, has gone through a two-year planning and pre-registration process, and recently passed the operational audit and demonstration flights required by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA). It is now in the final certification phase of obtaining its remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) operator licence.

 “Commercial drone use is revolutionary for the South African insurance industry and Old Mutual iWYZE is proud to be at the forefront of this innovation and new flight path,” says Christell Coleman, insurance expert at Old Mutual Insure. “The application of drone technology in our business is an empowering game changer – it will significantly improve our risk assessments, underwriting and quantification of assets through improved data collection, field assessments, high-quality photos, videos and analysis.

“Accident reconstruction software has abilities to import aerial accident scene photography and vehicle crush damage which will enhance the overall final product and accuracy. Drone operations will further reduce our operational, safety and fraud risks; fast-track and improve claims adjudication and processing; cut operational costs through enhanced efficiency and ultimately elevate our customer experience. 

“The technological advances that drone solutions offer for agricultural catastrophe and storm damage assessments are extensive.”

Old Mutual iWYZE will be one of only 46 registered RPAS operators across various industries in the country. It obtained its remote pilot licenses (RPLs) in 2017.

“The toughest part was to transition non-aviation employees to an aviation mind-set,” says Coleman. “To write a fit for purpose operation manual which adheres to all safety and security measures to ensure safe operations, we had to become pilots, versed in the Civil Aviation Act, regulations and technical standards; and master and understand aeronautical radio equipment and charts.”

Old Mutual iWYZE is planning to expand its drone operations and deployment in the group over the next few years across pre- and post-loss assessments. 

“We’ve identified exciting opportunities which hold the potential of significant cost savings and return on investment in our domestic assessment, surveying and agricultural business units. In addition, our commercial drone deployment will act as a catalyst for job creation as we will need more licensed employee drone pilots, technicians and safety and security managers in our major regions.”

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