South Korea’s flag carrier Korean Air has succeeded in deploying multiple drones simultaneously to shorten aircraft inspection time and improve operational stability dramatically. The unprecedented feat was at display at the airline’s headquarters today.
While drone aircraft inspection is transforming maintenance norms and being introduced by airlines around the world to increase accuracy and workplace safety, this is the first time a carrier has reported using a swarm of drones to perform a visual check of the aircraft fuselage.
At the demo event held at Korean Air headquarters’ hangar today, the airline showed off craft with one-meter width and height, and 12 lb (5.5 kg) weight. It said the drones are equipped with a collision-avoidance system and geofencing to maintain safe distances from surrounding facilities and prevent breakaways from the mission area.
The company also said it has developed an operations program through which four drones can be deployed at the same time to take photos of pre-planned areas. Further, if one of the drones fails to operate, the system is configured to automatically complete the mission using the remaining drones.
Benefits of aircraft inspection with drone swarms
As per the trials held by Korean Air, when four drones are operated simultaneously, the usual visual inspection time of about 10 hours can be slashed to four hours – netting an impressive 60% increase in time savings. This will naturally help to improve on-time flight operations.
Moreover, the drones, which are equipped with high-res cameras, can identify objects up to 1 mm in size, allowing for the detection of micro defects that cannot be seen with the naked eye when manual inspections are conducted from heights up to 20 meters.
Korean Air explained the inspection data is stored on the cloud so employees can easily check inspection results anywhere and anytime. And in addition to developing this new technology in line with the government’s policy to strengthen the competitiveness of the aircraft MRO industry, the airline has also revised regulations to improve drone maintenance procedures such as requiring the presence of safety personnel as well as pilots and engineers.
The official launch of Korean Air’s aircraft inspection drone swarms is planned for next year.
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