COUNTRY Financial’s use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) continues to reach new heights.
In time for crop season, the company has expanded its UAS fleet to 12 and the number of licensed, trained pilots to 15.
“We’re excited to move this program out of its pilot phase and make drones a bigger part of our day-to-day operations,” said Eric Vanasdale, senior loss control representative. “A crop claims adjuster using a drone can scout three times as many acres as an adjuster on foot.”
COUNTRY offered its crop claims adjusters the chance to become licensed pilots. And it took work.
Each adjuster had to pass a test to receive their pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Adjusters also had to practice flying, learn COUNTRY’s policies, procedures and best practices, and pass a practice flight test.
Among COUNTRY’s newest pilots: Trace Manning, a seven-year employee, who works in Rochester.
“I got involved because being on the ground floor of a new technology’s appealing,” Manning said. “I’m 62, and want to be on the cutting edge as much as possible. Technology is starting to pass me up, so being involved in this program is cool. Who wouldn’t want to fly a drone?”
Manning said he used a UAS last year to help assess wind damage on corn that was 7- to 8-feet tall.
“Corn that tall and dry is very tough to walk in,” he said. “You can walk right past damaged areas because you cannot see it. With the drone, you instantly can see the damage and can walk right to that area, saving time, getting a more accurate assessment of the damage.”
Alec Broeren, a COUNTRY crop adjuster for 3 ½ years, works in Walnut. He said he decided to become a trained UAS pilot because it would make him more valuable to customers and the company.
He’s already had the chance to test out the new technology during a few replant claims this spring.
“Although it is difficult to see individual damage to crops at this stage, the view from above has been valuable in assessing the scope of damage from excessive precipitation,” he said.