The use of drones for agricultural surveys by insurance companies is fast catching up. Images from the drones are their latest tools in assessing crop damages and catching insurance frauds.

Farmers buy insurance for one type of crop but sow another crop, and then claim damages. In such situations, drone surveys are helping catch the discrepancies and fraudulent claims, says Rajeev Chaudhary, Chief Risk Officer at Agriculture Insurance Company of India.

Citing an example, he said that in Rajkot, Gujarat, there are many instances where farmers have taken insurance for the groundnut crop, which is a risky and vulnerable crop, but sowed cotton. Since the harvesting time of both the crops is different, drone surveys were carried out to get a clear picture on the ground, he said.

“The matter is being taken up with the State government on the basis of drone images,” he said.

Jatin Singh, CEO of Skymet Weather Services, said hundreds of crores worth of settlements have not been made due to fraudulent claims. In one State, the premium is ₹400 crore per season, and settlement is held up due to the fraudulent claims, he said.

Eye in the sky

Skymet has 15 fixed-wing drones and has been providing agriculture survey services to insurance companies and the governments of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The company is a member of the NITI Aayog panel on the use of drones for agriculture.

Singh said that the business of agriculture surveys based on drones has been growing significantly and has been instrumental in detecting insurance frauds and ascertaining flood insurance risk, crops loss and acreage. In one State, the crop declaration by farmers was incorrect and the issue is under investigation, he said.

To remove various discrepancies in the crop insurance schemes, the Centre last year launched Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), which was implemented from kharif season 2016-17 along with the pilot Unified Package Insurance Scheme and restructured Weather-based Crop Insurance Scheme.

The premium under PMFBY is 2 per cent for kharif crops and 1.5 per cent for rabi crops.

Alpesh Shah, Senior Partner and MD of Boston Consulting Group (India), said that insurance frauds in certain areas of the country are high.

KG Krishnamoorthy Rao, Managing Director and CEO of Future Generali India Insurance Company, said insurance companies are trying to improve the method of claims settlement with technology.

Use of drones is helping in better and more accurate estimation of losses. When frauds happen, apart from losses for insurance companies there is the possibility of an increase in premium, which is not in the interest of farmers.

Therefore, accurate assessment of farm losses could also lead to a correction in the premium amount for the farmers, he said.