Air New Zealand and ST Engineering are conducting trials using drones to inspect aircraft exteriors during scheduled heavy maintenance checks.
This technique has been used “on a number of aircraft” at ST Engineering’s Singapore facilities, Air New Zealand said. The trials are based on the DroScan system developed by ST Engineering. Other airlines and aerospace companies have already undertaken similar drone inspection tests.
DroScan involves the drone following a prescribed route around an aircraft to inspect its surface and take high-definition images. These are processed using “smart algorithms to detect and classify defects, which aircraft engineers can review or confirm,” the airline said.
The use of the drone system is expected to improve inspection quality, Air New Zealand said. It could also cut inspection times to 1-2 hr., compared to up to six hours using traditional methods. “In the future, there may be an opportunity to use the device in New Zealand, for example to conduct ad hoc inspections after lightning strikes,” the carrier said.
ST Engineering said it could use DroScan more widely after the completion of the Air New Zealand trials.