Airbus has developed an Advanced Inspection Drone for aircraft maintenance inspections and reports inside the hangar. The automatic drone combines an integral visual camera, a laser-based obstacle-detection sensor, flight planner software, and an Airbus aircraft inspection software analysis tool.
Developed in cooperation with Airbus subsidiary Testia, which specializes in non-destructive testing, the drone-based system uses a design optimized for inspecting the upper parts of the aircraft fuselage. Following a predefined inspection path, the automated drone captures all the required images with its on-board camera. It then transfers high-quality pictures to a database for detailed analysis using a software system, allowing the operator to localize and measure visual damage on the aircraft’s surface by comparing it with the aircraft’s digital mock-up. The software automatically generates an inspection report.
Using the inspection drone can cut the required task time by more than half compared with a manual visual inspection, according to Airbus, while producing better-quality reports. The manufacturer expects the system to be available in the fourth quarter following EASA approval of the new inspection process. It has demonstrated the system to several airlines, which have expressed interest. Airbus said it also plans to offer the drone to MRO organizations.