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United Looking At Drones And Other Platforms For Inspections

Mobile devices for mechanics will use machine learning, voice recognition and RFID.

Major carriers are steadily pushing forward with a number of MRO innovations, but often with different priorities.

For example, United Airlines is considering the use of drones for inspection of aircraft, notes Brad Closson, managing director of digital technology for Tech Ops and Maintenance Systems. “United is still in the process of reviewing this and other options that meet the needs of OEMs and the FAA,” Closson says.  

Although OEMs are being consulted on inspection techniques, Closson notes that only regulators must actually approve of any technique eventually chosen. “We are looking at various platforms, which utilize imaging technology, spatial measurement and analysis that can be coupled with other technologies to aid in our rigorous inspection process.”

The giant carrier is also looking at mobile solutions for maintenance. “United is constantly considering mobile solutions to make the jobs of our employees easier,” Closson says. About two years ago, United implemented a mobile solution for its maintenance teams that allows mechanics to sign off on certain items electronically.

This mobile application continues to evolve toward advanced features, which will use machine learning and enhanced device capabilities such as voice recognition, navigation and RFID techniques. “This is only the beginning for our tech teams at United. And we are continuing to develop and deploy mobile applications to other areas for maintenance.”

United issued electronic flight bags to all its pilots and in 2017 deployed electronic log book software. But this software and maintenance releases are still independent of its EFBs. “We use the ACARS system in the aircraft as the interaction with the electronic log book and to issue the maintenance release document,” Closson explains. “We are currently working with the FAA to incorporate the maintenance release process and the digital log into our next generation of this tool.”

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