The insurance industry has become the latest to start using drones.

Insurance giant QBE has been deploying drones to assess and process insurance claims faster.

In April last year, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Ecuador's Manabi province killed hundreds of people and injured tens of thousands more.

In the ensuing state of emergency, QBE sent up drones to assess the 684 private buildings that had collapsed, after government authorities restricted physical access to the quake zone.

QBE says using drones helped it immediately survey the damage, so it could settle 90 per cent of large claims within 90 days.

“Drones offer QBE immediate access to areas affected by catastrophic events, such as earthquake or flood, allowing us to provide early assessment of the extent of damage,” the firm said a new annual report.

“We can then accelerate the claims process, identifying the resources and technical capability required to provide the necessary client support and deliver a more precise and accurate solution.”

QBE said drones were able to reduce the cost of claim assessments “significantly”, driving down customer premiums.

Drones are also in use in QBE's North American operations to survey crops, reducing the cost of employing humans to walk the 70,000 acres of citrus.

The insurer reported a 23 per cent rise in profit to $US844 million ($1.1 billion) this week, with plans to pay shareholders through a billion-dollar share buyback.