Drone Imagery Proves Beneficial in BC Wildfires

Toronto, ON (Aug. 8, 2017) – Unlike the Fort McMurray fires, there has been no aerial imagery provided to the public to determine the status of structures in the still restricted areas of the BC wildfires. This has compounded worry and concern for many evacuated homeowners, anxious to know if they’ll have an inhabitable home when the fires clear up.

“Because the fires were so spread out, the structures scattered across a very large area, and the ongoing smoke issues, it just hasn’t made sense to arrange flyovers to capture aerial photography,” said one official working from the Williams Lake Resiliency Center.

One adjusting firm, Catastrophe Response Unit (CRU), decided this would be the perfect time to utilize their new drone group and test the processes of providing critical information in a post-disaster event. Having registered and licensed UAS pilot adjusters in both Canada and the states, and the Kespry state-of-the-art drone system, CRU worked through the process of requesting SFOCs to obtain Transport Canada clearance to fly properties in the severely damaged areas of Spokin Lake Road, Horsefly Road, and Prichard Road.

After identifying properties that could not be inspected for one of their clients, the first steps were to provide the coordinates to Transport Canada to determine if flights could be made in those areas. Normally a process that takes days, with the assistance of Kespry and another CRU industrial partner, clearance to file the flight plans was received in less than 48 hours.

Next came the mobilization challenges. Jaina Ford, a leading CRU pilot; Glenn Smith, the director of the CRU drone division, and Gary Winston, founder of the CRU group, all travelled to the Williams Lake Operations Center to review plans before starting flyovers on Monday morning. Transporting the drone itself wasn’t easy as the unit is stored in the cargo hold of a plane while the custom batteries had to be securely transported as carry on.

“We took more than 18 months of research and study before we recognized the technical superiority of the Kespry system. During that time, we trained six pilots, who were also adjusters, to qualify for the long list of tests and licenses required on both sides of the border”, said Glenn Smith. He added, “our commercial program was rolled out a few weeks ago and now we’re able to have more practical catastrophe experience to guide us with the benefits and use in widespread losses.

Gary Winston is enjoying the advances he sees with his company. “No doubt every adjusting group will use drones going forward, we are just happy to have worked through the regulations and red tape, and have our pilots ready to go! With the accuracy of geocoding and the Kespry optics and AI learning, these machines will be key in understanding damage severity in every type of event from hail to earthquakes.”

After helping its carrier partners, CRU plans on sharing the data collected with the IBC to distribute to it’s members. The founder of CRU explained, “no company wants their clients to endure the heartache of discovering a total loss or severe loss when they finally have access to their property. It makes sense, and is the right thing to do, to provide any data we can to help our industry help their customers through this very difficult event.”

Being able to create and analyse event mapping has always played a key role in systematically responding to catastrophes. Simply creating overlays from hail event to hail event lets companies determine new damage and areas affected in prior years. With earthquakes and large-scale fires, claims are usually worked from the least severe first, then finishing with the most damaged. CRU sees their drone group as a big assistance in quickly quantifying this damage by neighborhood or parcel.

About Catastrophe Response Unit

Founded in 2004, CRU provides staffing solutions and service management for the P & C insurance industry. We specialize in the administration of catastrophe and daily claims, operating on an international scale through our corporate headquarters in Toronto, Ontario with additional offices located in Alberta, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. CRU has a proven record of providing the resources and knowledge to service and collaborate with carriers of all sizes.

About Catastrophe Response Unit

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