Airbus has demonstrated aircraft visual inspection using a drone at the Farnborough International Airshow in the UK. The drone, equipped with a high-definition camera, performs visual inspection for the upper part of the aircraft. It is flown using an automatic flight control system supervised by a human pilot. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) follows a predetermined flight path and takes a series of pictures automatically. All these images – and especially those showing any potential quality issues such as scratches, dents and painting defects – are compiled in a 3D digital model, recorded in a database and then analyzed. This data helps improve traceability, prevention and the reduction of damage.
The benefits of this innovative tool and process are significant. Aircraft downtime for inspection is reduced as data acquisition by drone takes only 10 to 15 minutes, instead of two hours using conventional methods.
“The use of this new technology offers better working conditions including improving the safety and comfort for the quality inspectors,” said Nathalie Ducombeau, Airbus head of quality.
Operators no longer need to go up on a telescopic handler to perform the visual inspection, which is sometimes carried out in poor weather conditions. In addition, picture analysis can be done anytime afterwards and from the comfort of an office.
Aircraft visual inspections are an important part of the production process and part of quality standards.
A full-scale industrial test is being conducted on A330 aircraft. Airbus is working on implementation on other programs.
July 15, 2016