Training Drones May Not Last, But Drone Use in Restoration Will

With the devastation wrought by hurricanes Florence and Michael this season, restoration firms need the best tools available to speed up recovery and ensure client satisfaction. Josh Reynolds, owner of WrightWay Emergency Services in Florida, says the best part of his job is seeing and sharing customers’ joy when their home or business is actually in better condition than before the loss. He adds that it makes the challenges and hardships faced by the industry worth it.

From starting his business after the 2005 hurricane season and learning to finish the drying process on materials to perform proper restoration to now, Reynolds says drone use can speed up even some of the largest restoration jobs. For his technicians, drones provide them with “a clearer picture of damages before we even begin the remediation of hard-to-access areas. It has helped us in formulating a more accurate plan of action before we even start the project,” he says.

Do Your Homework Before Taking Flight

Before implementing the use of drones at his company, Reynolds was concerned about potential liability, especially if drone use led to personal or property damage. He initially reached out to his insurance agent to ensure they had the appropriate property coverage, and researched licensing and certification requirements beforehand to ensure compliance with federal law.

When Reynolds purchased the company’s first drone, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required even recreational drones to be registered. Since then, federal rules have changed, but he stresses that under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (14CFR part 107), commercial companies must obtain a remote pilot certificate from the FAA, register their unmanned aircraft system (UAS) as a “non-modeler,” and follow all of the part 107 rules found on FAA.gov.

Reynolds says he also “practiced making sure I was very proficient at flying my first drone.” Initially, he says, “Only one person, my IT director (who was very proficient), did any drone work other than myself. Now we have five additional employees trained to fly drones.”

Drones Can Find Hidden Repairs

According to Reynolds, drones help the most with larger losses. “Since we already have a better understanding of the extent of damage, we can set reasonable expectations for our customers. It also helps us ‘educate’ the adjuster handling the claim when they are unable to see necessary repairs. They say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words,’ and I can attest in a large loss claim scenario that is absolutely true.”

Specifically, he has seen the insurance claim process speed up with drone use. “When I can clearly show an insurance adjuster damages they either can’t see or might have missed, it provides them with the documentation they need to move forward with repairs,” Reynolds says. “Sometimes it could take a week before a field adjuster could show up to access a roof. Now, in minutes, we can send them photo documentation.”

Advice for Those Considering Drones

Reynolds doesn’t see any pitfalls with the use of drones in the restoration industry, so long as companies have taken the time to prepare and complete all the necessary steps before flying them. “Just make sure that you check your current local and federal requirements, and make sure you have proper insurance coverage in place,” he stresses.

The one lesson Reynolds learned from his firm’s experience with drones was not to invest too much in your “training” drone. “Trust me, you will crash it,” he says. “Other than that, just make sure you have the right employees operating them, and you will truly see their benefits.”

This article was shared in C&R with the permission of the Restoration Industry Association.

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