Korean Air is the first airline to use drone swarms to examine airplanes. Drone Technology advancements in recent years have encouraged a growing number of airlines to use unmanned aircraft for aviation safety inspections.
Korean Air uses drone swarms to inspect airplanes
However, it is believed that Korean Air is the first airplane operator to use drone swarms to visually inspect airplanes. Using multiple drones for the inspections drastically reduces the time that is required to complete the work.
“Whereas maintenance specialists previously had to perform a visual check of the aircraft fuselage from heights of up to 20 meters, drone inspections improve workplace safety and allow for increased accuracy and speed,” the carrier said according Digital Trends.
Korean Air developed its own quadcopter to perform the inspections. The drone is more than three feet wide and weighs 12.1 pounds. During the inspection process, Korean Air used four drones at once to speed up the work. Each drone in the swarm is outfitted with high-tech cameras capable of detecting details as small as 0.04 inches (1 mm).
Custom software instructs the drones to gather imagery from specified parts of the aircraft. If any of the drones fails during the operation, the other drones are programmed to take over and finish the job.
According to the carrier, utilizing four drones simultaneously allows its engineering staff to reduce inspection time from ten hours to four hours.
“Korean Air shares inspection data through the cloud, enabling employees to easily check inspection results anywhere and anytime,” the carrier said. “The airline has also applied a collision-avoidance system and geo-fencing to maintain safe distances from surrounding facilities and prevent break-aways from the mission area.”
Through ongoing testing, operators of the drone-based inspection procedure are aiming to improve the process’s accuracy. If all goes as planned, Korean Air plans to fully introduce the swarm system sometime next year.
We first heard about airlines utilizing drone technology for aircraft inspection in 2015, when easyJet, a European low-cost carrier, revealed that it was developing its own system. Austrian Airlines has lately begun deploying drones for the same type of operations.
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.