Insurance giant QBE is deploying drones to the scene of natural disasters like last year's 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Ecuador to assess and process insurance claims faster.
The April earthquake in Ecuador's Manabi province killed hundreds and injured tens of thousands of people, in the worst natural disaster to hit the country since 1949. A state of emergency was declared following the event.
For QBE, it was the second time the insurance company used drones to assess and settle insurance claims following this kind of catastrophe.
More than 684 private buildings collapsed in the city of Portoviejo, prompting the Ecuadorian authorities to restrict physical access to the quake zone over concerns it could continue to deteriorate.
Sending in drones meant QBE was able to immediately survey the damage, and settle 90 percent of large loss claims within 90 days.
"Drones offer QBE immediate access to areas affected by catastrophic events, such as earthquake or flood, allowing us to provide early assessment of the extent of damage," the firm said in its annual report today.
"We can then accelerate the claims process, identifying the resources and technical capability required to provide the necessary client support and deliver a more precise and accurate solution."
QBE said the use of drones reduced the cost of claim assessments "significantly", which in turn reduced customer premiums.
The insurer also turned to drones in the wake of December 2015's devastating floods in the UK, and the autonomous machines are similarly in use in QBE's North American operations to survey crops, reducing a three-month manual task of assessing 70,000 acres of citrus trees to three weeks.
After establishing a global data analytics function last year, QBE today indicated the team's focus for 2017 would be on projects related to portfolio remediation, claims initiatives, and customer analysis.
QBE has around 150 staff both onshore and in the Philippines and India working in its data analytics function.
It sees data analytics as useful in driving underwriting decisions, focused risk selection, and greater pricing accuracy, as well as more targeted customer support.
The insurer said it currently has 70 projects underway to embed data-driven decision making in the organisation.
New tech boss
The insurer's technology operations are now being led by a new IT head honcho in David McMillan, who was today announced as QBE's new group chief operations officer.
McMillan's remit covers operations, claims, and technology.
He comes from British multinational insurance firm Aviva where he spent the past 15 years, the last three as its CEO of Europe and chairman of its health business.
Prior to his stint at Aviva McMillian spent 12 years as director of management consultancy with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He has an undergraduate degree in finance and computer science.
McMillan replaces Colin Fagen, who had served as QBE's inaugural COO since the role was created early last year.
Fagen left the insurer unexpectedly earlier this month.