Aircraft inspections are one of the best things operators can do to ensure safety in flight, but ironically, the chore can be a little unsafe for inspectors themselves. To properly review an aircraft's condition, workers often need to utilize cranes and lifts to closely examine an plane's structure and components. It's mildly risky, slow and laborious process -- but soon, it may not be. Airbus has started testing drone inspections that may speed up the process by over an hour.
Airbus demonstrated its new inspection process at the Farnborough Airshow, where a drone equipped with an Intel RealSense camera autonomously circled an A330 while rapidly snapping photos. The images were then applied to a 3D model of the aircraft that allowed inspectors to get a close, detailed look at the subject. It still takes awhile to inspect the digital model, but in all, it's much faster. Gathering the inspection data by hand takes about two hours. Using a drone takes only 10 to 15 minutes.
The company expects to finish initial testing the program by the end of the year, and hopes to include a wider range of aircraft in the program soon afterwards.