easyJet, the UK's largest airline, has announced it is working with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), a partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), to modify existing technology so that drones can be employed to inspect its fleet of 220 Airbus aircraft. The innovative technology will help the airline to operate even more efficiently, reducing delays while maintaining its industry leading punctuality and safety records.
The drones which use multiple electric motor-driven fans and batteries will be programmed to scan and assess easyJet's planes, reporting back to engineers on any damage which may require further inspection or maintenance work. They are currently in development with a view to trialling them in the coming months and introducing them into operation as early as next year.
Ian Davies, Head of Engineering for easyJet, explained, "We have examined and assessed cutting edge technology across many different industries and are now applying a range of new technologies to the aviation sector for the first time to help us run our fleet of aircraft more effectively, efficiently and safely.
The advantage of these emerging technologies is threefold - freeing up our engineering team to undertake more skilled tasks, keeping our costs down which in turn keeps our fares low and helping to minimise delays so maintaining our industry leading punctuality for our passengers. Safety is our number one priority and so all of these new technologies will be applied by our experienced engineering and flight crew to ensure our leading safety record is maintained."
Dr Arthur Richards, Head of Aerial Robotics at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, commented, "Aircraft inspection is a great application for drones. Coupled with smart navigation and computer vision, they can get accurate data from really awkward places."
easyJet has also announced the development of a number of other innovative technologies, including 3D augmented reality systems, bespoke apps, and electronic tablets that will be especially useful in some of the airline's more remote airports across its network.
For more on drones read Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Electric UAVs 2014-2024.