The innovative quality control process uses drones to visually inspect new aircraft prior to their handover to customers

Previously, Airbus’ quality inspectors had to go up in telescopic handler vehicles to examine aircraft and make sure there were no “non-conformities” such as defects, scrapes or dents. This process was a laborious one, and could take up to two hours. Using drones, though, the company has shown how it has reduced that time to as little as 10 minutes.

Airbus worked with drone outfit AscTec to create a modified Falcon 8 drone with Intel RealSense cameras for intelligent obstacle navigation and a 42-megapixel full-frame camera for data capture. The drone is set to fly a predetermined route around a plane, during which it systematically and automatically take a series of photos. A human drone pilot supervises the flight and is able to take control
if necessary.

Up to 150 photos are typically captured and these are then examined by inspectors as 3D models of the plane. It’s possible to zoom and pan around the images so as to look closer at certain areas, with the data said to ultimately help improve traceability, prevention and damage reduction.

The system is being tested on Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft, after which it is expected to be rolled out for use on all aircraft from next year. It’s being demonstrated at this year’s Farnborough Airshow in the UK, which runs until
July 17.

Imagine being able to inspect every Airbus in service at every gate, at every airport in the world.

I do not believe for one minute that Airbus developed this capability to save an hour and fifty minutes on final inspection. That is just a place to start.
Linking the drone flight path and photo assignment to a 3D model of the aircraft, then making the whole thing accessible using gestures is more CSI than CSI ever dreamed of being. You need to watch this video to see the potential for integrated data solutions to add value and improve performance while reducing costs.



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