- Associated Press - Saturday, October 25, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - State Farm insurance company is seeking federal approval to test drones in evaluating property damage and responding to natural disasters.

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph reported (http://bitly.com/1t2rcfG ) Saturday that the Bloomington-based company has filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

It asks for two exemptions to existing rules. One would allow it to operate unmanned aircraft at a private State Farm test site in central Illinois. A second would allow it to use them during actual catastrophes.

The testing, according to State Farm, “will help the company learn how to capture images and to determine the nature and extent of damage to policyholders’ property,” according to the 18-page application.

The company said it is particularly interested in using the drones, which would fly at altitudes no higher than 400 feet, to determine the extent of the damage to the roofs of structures.

State Farm said it wants to test the drones at a private company facility that include at least 100 acres or “uninhabited rural farmland.” And the company said establishing a test site within 50 miles of its corporate headquarters, explaining that it would save money because it the nearest Federal Aviation Administration-approved testing site is more than 700 miles away at Virginia Tech .

The FAA bans most commercial drone operations, but officials there are under pressure from Congress and industry to loosen restrictions on smaller drones. The agency is expected to propose safety rules in November for businesses that want to operate them.

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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