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State Farm granted FAA waiver for damage assessment drone flights

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State Farm is granted the first-ever national FAA waiver for damage assessment drone flights. (ABC 7 Amarillo-Tiffany Lester)

Damage assessment after catastrophic events, which are no stranger in the Texas Panhandle, is becoming easier thanks to advanced technology.

State Farm is the only company to be granted a national waiver by the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct drone operations over people and flights beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight.

“This drone is going to help us,” said State Farm Agent Jeff Bara. “It’s going to tell us exactly what we need and we’ll be very prepared.”

Jeff Bara has been a State Farm agent for four years. He said helping people quickly is vital.

“Any time there are trees blocking roads or houses, that devastation, where we physically can’t have access to it, it might be a day or two or three, we’re actually able to see what we need to do and what we need to have days before actually even stepping foot onto the premises,” said Bara.

“Between property at stake and lives being at stake, every minute does count,” said Randall County Fire Marshal Troy Ducheneaux.

Ducheneaux said the State Farm drone would also help first responders.

“That would actually give us the idea of very quickly to be able to look at that and determine what structures were damaged or even destroyed and whether they were occupied residential structures or out building,” said Ducheneaux.

He said the department is following the lead of technology.

“We’ve got to stay current with that because the moment that you don’t you’re behind the game and basically you’ll be using antiquated equipment and not have the stuff that can give you the advantage to maybe save that life later on,” said Ducheneaux.

The Randall County Fire Department currently has access to the Randall County Sheriff’s Office’s drone for cases such as lost hikers in Palo Duro Canyon State Park or for wildland fires burning in risky areas.

There are State Farm adjusters with access to drones spread across the country to get to any catastrophically impacted area quickly.

For more information on the State Farm drone, click here.

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