Austrian Airlines inspects aircraft using drone technology

Since mid-year, Austrian Airlines has been testing a completely new technology for the technical inspection of its aircraft fleet:/Photo: Austrian Airlines


Using autonomous drones developed by the French start-up “Donecle”, Austrian Airlines’ aircraft are checked for damage to paintwork and structures. The innovation not only makes work easier for the airline’s technicians, but the shorter duration of the check – less than two hours instead of the previous four to ten hours – also ensures faster availability of the aircraft in daily operations.

The test of the fully autonomous drone will continue until the end of the year. At the Austrian Airlines hangar in Vienna, the drone carries out inspections of the exterior of the aircraft under the supervision of an aircraft technician using state-of-the-art, patented laser technology. The system flies all areas of the aircraft independently. The drone takes a high-resolution picture every second. Using these images, the software automatically detects damage to the structure and paint of the aircraft, such as missing stickers. The aircraft technician has the opportunity to examine the damage to the tablet in detail and create a report for the Austrian maintenance team. The drone does the preparatory work and accelerates the inspection, the final decision lies with the certified aircraft technician. The operator receives detailed theoretical and practical training on how to operate the drone.

Airbus and soon Embraer fleet in check
Currently, the inspections with the drone are being carried out on the Airbus fleet of Austrian, which will grow from 36 to 46 aircraft in the next few years. The red-white-red airline plans to extend the autonomous aircraft checks to other aircraft models in the future. Starting in September, the 17 Embraer aircraft of Austrian Airlines will be checked with the new technology. “Another possibility would be to use the drone at our technology partner companies worldwide. This would give us an accurate picture of the painting work being carried out in Vienna at a different location,” says Austrian Technical Director Kaye, describing the future potential.

Ideas competition at Lufthansa Systems
The starting point for the use of the new technology at Austrian Airlines was an ideas competition at Lufthansa Systems, the Group’s sister company. At a start-up challenge, the drone provider Donecle presented itself and worked with Lufthansa Technik to develop possible applications for the autonomous drone for aircraft checks. Austrian Airlines acts as a test case within the Lufthansa Group and, together with “Donecle”, is further developing the technology on the basis of its experience in scheduled operations.

Source: Austrian Airlines

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