Hangar drones

The new Advanced Inspection Drone has been demonstrated to several airlines, who according to Airbus have expressed interest in the product. The system will be available for the industry in Q4 2018 following regulatory approval.

Airbus is offering a new UAV-based aircraft maintenance tool, the Advanced Inspection Drone. The system is optimised for inspecting the upper parts of an aircraft’s fuselage in a hangar and is designed to accelerate visual checks, increase the quality of inspection reports and reduce downtime.

Developed by Airbus in partnership with its non-destructive testing subsidiary Testia, the system consists of a UAV with an integral visual camera, a laser-based obstacle detection sensor, flight planner software and an Airbus aircraft inspection software analysis tool.

The system follows a predefined inspection path, its camera capturing all the required images. The laser-based sensor aboard can detect obstacles and an inspection halted if necessary, enabling the vehicle to fly automatically without the need for remote piloting. Highquality pictures are transferred to a PC database for detailed analysis, with the software automatically generating an inspection report. Operators can then localise and measure visual damage on the aircraft’s surface by comparing it with the aircraft’s digital mock-up. Airbus says 30 minutes of image capture by the drone means the total inspection process will take only three hours. The traditional methods of visually inspecting aircraft using a telescopic platform are not required.

The system is part of Airbus’ Hangar of the Future maintenance project, a concept designed to integrate new Internet of Thingsconnected technologies such as drones, collaborative robots, scanners, cameras and nondestructive sensors with aircraft technical documentation and inservice data. Airbus is hoping to secure European Aviation Safety Agency approval for the system later this year. Mark Broadbent