While drones aren’t generally something that airlines want anywhere near their planes.
Yet European budget airline EasyJet is eyeing their use to speed up aircraft reviews.
The organization is planning to use drones preprogrammed to inspect aircraft on the floor after in-flight events like lightning strikes.
Nowadays, such reviews are done visually and need an engineer to get up above the aircraft and around its exterior. This requires a working platform and takes a lot of valuable time.
The drones will fly around an aircraft snapping images, which will be fed to engineers for analysis.
Engineers will use the pictures instead of visual inspections to check possible difficulties. A human review and sign-off will still be considered necessary on any aircraft that has been scanned by drone.
EasyJet is working with Blue Bear Systems, a British drone company and Bristol University, to test the technology and says it’s already demonstrated that the drone fly-around is possible.
Next, it’s working on getting higher resolution pictures from the drone to provide a clearer view for engineers.
The airline said it is trialling the use of 3D printing to replace parts within the cabin like arm rests to speed up the replacement process and reduce the storage of spares. 3D printing will be a part of the next generation engines that easyJet has on order. The LEAP engine features 3D printed parts including fuel nozzles, carbon filter fan blades and ceramic matrix composites.
Video of the Easyjet Innovation Event.