Why is an airline flying drones around its planes?

Answer: For inspections.

by / September 13, 2019

Usually, a drone flying near an airplane can shut down a busy airport for hours. Austrian Airlines, however, actually wants drones to fly near its planes.

To be clear, the airline does not want privately owned quadcopters to be flown near its planes while they are in the air. It does, however, have a good reason for letting Donecle operate its machines around planes in the hangar. The French startup and Austrian Airlines are testing a new way of integrating emerging technology into the aircraft inspection process.

The drone flies autonomously around a parked plane taking high-resolution images, which are then analyzed by a custom software program. It will flag anything that it thinks needs to be looked at, such as structural or paint damage. A human then checks the images on a tablet to decide if the issue needs to be check by the maintenance crew.

Using the drones reduces the time for each inspection to less than two hours, where it used to take anywhere from four to 10. It also lightens the workload for technicians, allowing them to focus more on important tasks. According to Digital Trends, the airline stressed that the drones only do preparatory inspection work — all final assessments are still conducted by human personnel.

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