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EasyJet uses drone to inspect aircraft

Airline easyJet has trialled the use of drones to carry out automated testing on aircraft

EasyJet has announced the first automated inspection of one of its aircraft carried out by a pre-programmed drone.

The airline hopes this technology will be used in the future to reduce the amount of time an aircraft is out of service for testing after events such as lightning strikes, as it takes less time than a manual inspection.

“We’re very pleased with the tests. It went as we expected – the aircraft flew as designed, we got the accuracy we wanted and we’re pleased we’ve crossed another milestone that this can be done autonomously,” said Ian Davies, head of engineering at easyJet.

EasyJet is aiming to use the drones for inspections across its European engineering bases, including Gatwick and Luton in England, in the next year, and is working with Blue Bear Systems and Bristol University to produce units with high-definition pictures.

“We’re confident we have a winning solution here for how to inspect a large area on a large aircraft quickly,” said Davies.

EasyJet has paired with Airbus to look into products to study prognostics maintenance by monitoring real-time information from aircraft systems. This is then analysed to predict potential faults in aircraft, aiming to reduce delays related to technical faults.

The airline is also trialling the use of 3D printers to print replacement parts of aircraft, such as armrests. This reduces the amount of space needed for storage and makes the parts quicker and easier to replace.

New easyJet engines, named Leap, will contain 3D printed parts, including fuel nozzles and carbon filter fan blades.

These are just some of the technology advancements the airline has put in place to improve service, in addition to launching customer-facing products such as the consumer iPhone and Apple Watch apps.

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These allow customers to look at flight information, social interactions and news surrounding their destination, and can also act as a mobile boarding pass when in the airport.

“It’s about convenience and making travel easier for our passengers,” said Daniel Young, digital development manager at easyJet. “Now you’ve got your boarding pass and the latest information on your wrist.”

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