Leading automated drone airplane inspection company Donecle says it has moved to enhance its operational capabilities with the acquisition of fellow French group Dronétix Technologie and its 3D mapping tech.
Toulouse-based Donecle bought Dronétix in April, but only revealed the purchase this week to trumpet the expansion of its drone inspection offer to airlines and maintenance, repair, and overhaul MRO) clients. Though there is a degree of overlap in services the two companies deliver, Dronétix will provide Donecle use of its autonomous mapping tech, which enables automatic data capture and 3D reconstruction of small assets such as aircraft engines or landing gear.
Use and continued perfection of drones in airplane inspections are seen as major game-changing capabilities for airlines and MROs around the world.
Sensor-equipped UAVs can collect images necessary for full scans of planes in far less time and with greater reliability than manual inspections – especially with the backing of artificial intelligence and machine learning programs that continually improve performance as data reserves grow. Onboard cameras can pick up damage or defects down to one millimeter, and – when working in teams – get accurate work done far quicker than multiple human inspectors perched on scaffolds.
Donecle’s acquisition should assist its business growth in two ways. First, it’s intended to speed the process of drone inspections of airplanes, and broaden the services provided in that by using Dronétix’s automated mapping capacities on complex components. That enhanced offer, meanwhile, should allow the paired companies to extend their customer base beyond current clients that include jet engine maker Safran, Embraer MRO specialist Regional Jet Center, and South American airline group LATAM.
“This is an important milestone in Donecle’s growth,” said company CEO Matthieu Claybrough. “Combining the assets and know-how of both companies will strengthen our offer and boost the development of future capabilities. Our goal remains unchanged: to offer our customers cost-saving solutions while improving traceability and safety.”
The move extends Donecle’s recent development push. Last year, the company teamed up 3D mapping specialist 8Tree to develop tech for accelerating drone inspections of airplanes. The result was the dentCHECK system that allowed the partners to fully inspect a Dassault Rafale fighter jet in just an hour.
In addition to providing faster and reliable inspections of airplanes, Donecle’s drone platform stores all data collected – including scans, localization information, and dent measurement readings – in a digital database for future comparison. That history helps track the chronology of dent accumulation and structural evolution of planes, which in turn facilitates operators’ MRO scheduling, thus improving aircraft availability and safety.