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Airbus reveals "Advanced Inspection Drone" to reduce aircraft downtime and improve inspection quality

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Orlando - In most cases, drones are considered dangerous to commercial aircraft. But in some cases, they can also be useful to aircraft manufacturers and operators. On April 10th, Airbus has demonstrated its drone-based inspection system to some airlines at MRO Americas in Orlando held by Aviation Week from 10 to 12 April. ( עוד...

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Stefan Sobol 5
It seems to me that a closer inspection by a drone (even with just an HD camera) provides better coverage than what can be seen by the usual method of someone walking around the plane on the ground and looking up. With current drone obstacle detection and avoidance there is less risk that the drone will collide with the aircraft. The drone can be programmed to follow a repeatable path around the aircraft without operator intervention (and errors).
John Hansen 2
I hope there are some audits or studies/investigations done to assure that this inspection is comparative to the quality currently done "by hand" or whatever. Wouldn't the FAA have to approve or sign-off on this?
James Carlson 2
Given that the article itself says that they're going for EASA approval, it certainly sounds like the studies you're talking about are part of the program.
Robert Huff 1
Now the sticky issue of drones in prohibited or restricted locations hits home.
It may well be useful, be programmed to "fly" a specific program and might be a useful tool for a visual inspection in hard to get to locations. Where would this happen?
WhiteKnight77 1
As an NDT inspector who does visual inspections, this is a bit disturbing. One has to be within 2 feet of a surface at specific angles with at least 100 foot-candles of lighting (though too much can be just as bad as too little). I have done remote inspections with a camera, but that has been relegated to checking for trash or obstructions in a pipe before being closed up.

The way they are showcasing this shows them checking the pictures after a plane could be sent back to the flight line and back into service while doing so. If there is a crack, that could mean a plane loaded full of people headed somewhere before being taken out service for repairs whereas eyes on right then using a direct inspection means it is taken out of service right then, not later.
James Carlson 2
Neither the article nor the video explain the details of the equipment carried by that UAS. I think that with the right instrumentation and data processing, this could be a significant advancement over standard visual inspections. Given that they're apparently seeking certification for the system, I'd expect there's more to the picture here than a simple remote camera.

I'd have no problem stepping on board an aircraft that was inspected by an automated system, especially if they can prove that it catches things that humans can't catch.

WhiteKnight77 -1
Did you see anything in the video that looks like it was illuminated? I didn't and even the photos they were showing that were supposedly taken with that drone did not appear to be either. Would you want to be flying in an aircraft that has a crack in it while the inspectors are reviewing the photos looking for it or would you rather fly in one that has been repaired is the question. As a former crew chief on helicopters, I know what my answer would be.
James Carlson 3
Can you see IR or UV illumination? I'm pretty sure I can't, but I know a camera will. Do you know what the performance characteristics of that camera are compared with the naked eye? I'm pretty sure I don't know -- they didn't publish any specs here -- but I do know there are cameras that have far higher spacial and color resolution than any human eye.

And what makes you think it would be returned to service *before* reviewing the data? Nothing in that video or article suggested in any way that you'd just fly the UAS, take some pictures, and then sign off without review.

I'm sure you have experience in MX. I'm not doubting that for a moment. But I do think this complaint is ill-founded.
WhiteKnight77 1
As they are showing it, they are not doing any inspections requiring UV lighting, those are done in darkened conditions. No more than 2 foot candles of white light are allowed at the surface. That plane they were demonstrating this on, and the pictures they showed later are not seen to be darkened. It is really bright. Inspections done with fluorescent media are either magnetic particle or liquid penetrant.

If that camera can see the equivalent of a 1/32" line at 12" as I am required to and tested yearly as well as a test for colorblindness, I have no issues, but that drone was further than 1' from the plane.

Per the article:

"With this new technology, Airbus aims to accelerate and facilitate visual checks, while remarkably diminishing aircraft downtime and improving the quality of inspection process."

That drone will create thousands of images. How long will it take to go through them all and ensure that there are no cracks anywhere (that is what they are looking for in the skin as well as any missing or popped rivets)?

I guess you could say that I am old fashioned in that I believe that the Mk. 1, Mod. 1 eyeball, even with corrective lenses if required, cannot be beat. I would have to see it under actual inspection conditions, even if on a test plate, to see if that small crack can be seen with said camera.
Peter McGrath 0
"Yeah, we flew the drone around the plane and everything looked okay." How confident does that make everyone feel?
Stefan Sobol 3
Same as when a pilot or ramp agent walks around the plane for the preflight inspection in bad weather. How much do you actually expect them to see?
narayan 2
As long as drones are NOT flying the plane, I am happy.

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