How Drones are a Win-Win-Win for Policyholders, Carriers and Claims Pros

At the recent Property Innovation Summit, Donan CEO Lyle Donan gave a presentation on the use of drones (aka UAVs) in situations where a roofing inspection posed serious challenges. Michael Nocton of DonanHere, Donan’s Michael E. Nocton, a senior forensic engineer, explains how his UAV solved a claims case involving heavy water damage.

As a forensic engineer called upon to document inspections, my Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is quickly becoming one of my favorite tools.

As an example of how drones can truly help in solving problems and mitigating risks, I was recently called out to investigate a building that had undergone a roof membrane replacement during a heavy rain spell. Somehow, thousands of gallons of water managed to leak inside the building. After the water was drained out, an engineer claimed the water got in through cracks in the insulated exterior finishing and penetrated around the windows.

When I arrived at the site, I was joined by an industrial air quality engineer and architect, who were also hired by the carrier. We found an area of possible water entry around a third-story window that would require additional investigation. As the air quality engineer and architect were preparing to order a lift, I immediately offered to fly the area in question with my UAV.

Photos taken by the drone showed the windows were sealed with caulking— suggesting that wind could not drive in rain. Both the air quality engineer and architect were amazed by the clarity of the images. Further investigation showed the cause for gallons of water leaking into the building: no curbs were installed around the mechanical units or parapet caps around the perimeter of the building at the time of the storm.

Click the video to see high-resolution footage captured via a multi-rotor drone

I`m always thrilled when I can go back to a client with definitive conclusions, and that was the case in this instance. Although I could have generated those conclusions by renting a boom truck, the significance of deploying our UAV resulted in many hours and dollars saved.

Looking ahead, UAVs will drastically change the way investigators gather information. They will reduce the number of inspections that require rope and harness, lifts, or tall ladders – drastically reducing risk for claims adjusters. Timelines will shorten and equipment costs will drop. It all adds up to added value for all parties, making drones a win-win-win for adjusters, carriers, and insureds.

Michael E. Nocton, P.E., is a senior forensic engineer at Donan. He can be reached via email at


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