Austrian Airlines is using drones to carry out
technical inspections of its aircraft fleet.
The aircraft are checked for paintwork or
structural damage by means of autonomous drones developed by the
French start-up, Donecle.
This system not only reduces the workload for
technicians of Austria’s national carrier, but the shorter
duration of the checks lasting less than two hours, instead of the
previous time required of four to ten hours, enables quicker
availability of the aircraft in daily flight operations.
“Our aspiration at Austrian Technik is to stay
up-to-date when it comes to new developments. Innovative systems
such as these drones perfectly support us to further enhance our
stability in flight operations and avoid flight cancellations,”
said Michael Kaye, Vice President Austrian Airlines Technical
Operations, commenting on the advantages of the new drone
autonomous drone are being tested until the end of the year. Under
the supervision of an aircraft technician, the drone implements
inspections on the exterior of the aircraft in the Austrian
Airlines hangar by means of a state-of-the-art, patented laser
The system flies autonomously, from takeoff to landing
to inspect all areas of the aircraft. The drone takes a
high-resolution image every second. On the basis of these images,
the accompanying software automatically identifies damage to the
structure and paintwork of the aircraft, for example missing
The aircraft technician has the possibility to
examine the damage in detail on his tablet and generate a report
for the Austrian Airlines maintenance team. The drone does the
preparatory work and accelerates the inspection. However, the
final decision is made by the certified aircraft technician, who
is also given extensive theoretical and practical training in
operating the drone.
At present the drone inspections are
being carried out on the Airbus fleet of Austrian Airlines, which
will grow from 36 to 46 aircraft in the coming years. Austria’s
flag carrier plans to expand autonomous aircraft
inspections to other aircraft models in the future. Starting this
month, the 17 Embraer planes deployed by Austrian Airlines
will also be checked by the new technology.
“Another option would
be to deploy the drones worldwide in our technical partner
companies. In this way we could obtain an accurate picture here in
Vienna of paintwork carried out at another location for example,” Kaye
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