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Aerial imagery brings commercial property underwriting, loss control, and rating to the next level

The challenge for commercial property insurers has always involved underwriting and rating a commercial property as accurately, quickly, and profitably as possible. As data and analytics capabilities progressed, insurers were able to draw upon insights gleaned from property-exposure detail, risk assessment, loss control surveys, and replacement cost estimates such as those offered through Verisk’s ProMetrix® solution.

Geomni aircraft in fliight

However, now, our capabilities are being amplified by leveraging powerful aerial imagery technologies offered through Geomni, Verisk’s geospatial business unit. Geomni’s remote-sensing capabilities utilize machine-learning technologies to help insurers interpret images and data and which provide detailed exposure information across the policy life cycle.

What is remote sensing?

Remote sensing generally comprises many image- and data-gathering platforms. At the higher end, it can involve fixed-wing aircraft equipped with cameras and sensors which, flying at relatively low elevations, gather high-resolution images and other important information about a property – creating 3D images that can provide information about elevation heights, roof slope, door and window sizes, and the like, as well as information about extra surfaces, new structures, adjacent exposures, and other changes that might occur over the course of time.

Geomni’s fleet – piloted by company-employed pilots – is based in 13 regional hubs strategically located throughout the United States to optimize response times. Equipped with sophisticated sensors, fleet aircraft are able to capture both oblique and orthogonal (top-down) images of a property, a capability that combines the attributes of aerial photographs with a GIS map.

Imagery captured by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), or more popularly known as drones, offer another platform. They’re generally flown at a mere 100 to 200 feet in the air, a close proximity that helps capture the highest-resolution images from multiple angles to focus on specific structure features – potentially spotlighting close-up physical damage not visible from a higher-flying aircraft, such as roof condition of the property, and adjacent risks.

Mobile devices and satellites offer yet two other platforms. Our inspectors can use mobile cameras to capture high-resolution images and data which, when combined with other source images and data, can provide a 360-degree property profile. Satellite imagery, which covers broad geographical areas, can serve as a valuable before-and-after baseline when combined with other geospatial data.

Benefits across the policy life cycle

By combining imagery from all four platforms – fixed wing aircraft, drones, mobile, and satellites – Verisk helps provide the commercial property professional - underwriter, surveyor/risk engineer, or claims adjuster - with highly accurate and reliable information. Detailed roof data often gives underwriters a property perspective not before seen. Drone and ground-truth images open a new window, permitting more accurate property assessments that together with a loss cost, can provide a more complete picture of the risk. Verisk plans to continue expanding the use of these advanced aerial imagery and machine learning technologies over the coming weeks and months.

Peter de Freitas

Peter de Freitas is vice president for commercial property. You can contact him at

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