ANZIIF Insurtech Interview
Lorraine Scott has never forgotten the first time she saw footage shot from a drone back in Easter 2014, and recalls thinking how this technology would become a game-changer for the insurance industry.
PURPOSE BUILT FOR INSURANCE
AirAssess was an idea that sprung to life off the back of a chat between its co-founders Lorraine Scott and Anthony Marsh, who had worked together previously on other drone projects, about the lack of a tailored solution for the insurance market.
‘While drones were being used in basically every other industry at scale, our early experience was that existing offerings did little to target the needs of insurers, which inhibited the adoption of this powerful technology’ Scott relates.
THE TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGE
Scott was confident that the imagery captured by drones would be incredibly useful in assessing roof related claims, however presenting the information in such a way that was quick, accessible and easy to consume continued to be an issue.
Previous attempts to incorporate drone technology into the assessment workflow was met with great difficulty, as existing software solutions in the market were either not suitable or were met with resistance, due to their complexity, training requirement, or difficult access.
‘The basic idea was to present all of the important information captured from the drone in a way that was easy to understand and accessible in just a few simple clicks’ Scott says.
AIRASSESS IS LAUNCHED
Together, Scott and Marsh founded AirAssess in early 2017.
They spent the better part of 12 months building a minimum viable product, while undertaking a number of pilot projects with some large insurers.
For example, Scott describes the challenge of being engaged by insurers to map for Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
With a lack of resources on the ground, maintaining a visual line of sight was very difficult, plus when evacuated residents started returning home earlier than expected, a decision had to be made to stop the mapping before it was finished.
‘This was incredibly valuable as it gave us an opportunity to test our assumptions, refine our business model and steer the development of our technology to best meet the needs of insurers’ she says.
But, it’s not all about the drones.
‘While drones play a big role in our business, they are only a part of the overall solution’ Scott says.
‘A number of steps in the workflow are required to ensure that the drone imagery being captured is actually useful to insurers.’
The AirAssess team quickly realised that it needed to incorporate a reporting function, to incorporate the preparation of detailed roof reports based on the drone imagery, but this made the process much more complicated.
‘Initially our process involved receiving a manual referral for assessment, allocating resources case by case, receiving inspection imagery by individual downloads or by email, preparing reports in Word and then emailing a PDF copy to the insurer. It was incredibly labour intensive,’ Scott recalls.
As the service began to gain traction, it was clear to Scott and Marsh that they needed to invest heavily in developing their solution to continually improve efficiency if they were to support growth in demand, particularly large spikes that came as a result of catastrophic storm events.
‘We started to build a fully integrated platform from the ground up that would handle every aspect of the business, from receiving referrals, allocating resources, capturing the drone data and preparing reports’ Scott says.
Fast forward to 2020 and AirAssess now has a highly automated and scalable cloud-based platform.
The company has completed over 15,000 drone-assisted roof inspections over more than 1,000 postcodes.
In January this year, AirAssess conducted almost 2,000 inspections in a single week.
‘This would never have been possible without our continued investment in the platform, the growth of the network and increased adoption within the industry’ Scott says.
MACHINE LEARNING FUTURE
As the business grows, Scott and Marsh are forever thinking about new ways to improve efficiency.
They are now developing an artificial intelligence capability to deliver improved reporting outcomes, such as automated damage detection and classification, driving improved consistency, and a further reduction in turnaround times.
‘We’re currently working on a really exciting and ambitious project to automate some of the reporting function, in order to further reduce our turnaround times’ Scott confirms.
AirAssess is also capitalising on the millions of images already captured to develop object detection algorithms that will help detect, classify and highlight potential roof issues to the report team.
‘While we expect there will always be a human in the loop, this capability will drastically reduce the time required to prepare each report’ Scott says.
SKY’S THE LIMIT
While roof inspections will always be at their core, AirAssess has its sights set on a number of other applications within the insurance industry.
‘Whether it be assessing crop health in agriculture, understanding the condition of complex assets pre risk, or identifying potential maintenance issues before they result in a claim, the benefits of using drone technology in this industry are clear and significant.’