Using Drones for Quality Assurance
Ian Wright posted on July 13, 2016 |
At the 2016 Farnborough Airshow, Airbus utilized the A350 XWB on static display area to demonstrate its process for inspecting aircraft by drone – which is planned to be used on completed production aircraft prior to customer delivery. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
At the 2016 Farnborough Airshow, Airbus utilized the A350 XWB on static display area to demonstrate its process for inspecting aircraft by drone – which is planned to be used on completed production aircraft prior to customer delivery. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
Engineers have already figured out a ton of things you can do with drones, including:

Heck, you can even control a drone with your mind.

So what’s next for these versatile unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)?

If you ask Airbus, the answer is inspecting their much, much larger cousins.

The drone Airbus used at the 2016 Farnborough Airshow to demonstrate visual inspection of aircraft by unmanned aerial vehicles has a high definition camera and is flown using an automatic flight control system supervised by a human pilot. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
The drone Airbus used at the 2016 Farnborough Airshow to demonstrate visual inspection of aircraft by unmanned aerial vehicles has a high definition camera and is flown using an automatic flight control system supervised by a human pilot. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
The company recently demonstrated how to use UAVs to perform visual inspections of in-production aircraft. By equipping the drone with a high definition camera and flying it using an automatic flight control system—supervised by a human pilot—the company was able to significantly reduce inspection times.

According to Airbus, data acquisition by drone takes 10 to 15 minutes compared to the two hours using conventional inspection methods. In addition, using drones reduces the risks for quality professionals, as well as service technicians who often need to go up on telescopic handlers to perform visual inspections, sometimes in poor weather conditions.

Aircraft quality inspection by drone on A350 XWB. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
Aircraft quality inspection by drone on A350 XWB. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
Pictures are automatically taken by the drone during flight and can be compiled into a 3D digital model and recorded in a database. This data can improve traceability as well as the prevention and reduction of damage. Analysis of the data can be done anytime after the inspection.

“The use of this new technology offers better working conditions including improving the safety and comfort for the quality inspectors,” said Nathalie Ducombeau, head of quality at Airbus.

3D digital model based on drone pictures. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
3D digital model based on drone pictures. (Image courtesy of Airbus.)
Airbus is currently conducting full-scale industrial tests on its A330 aircraft and working to implement the drone-based inspection in other programs. The company demonstrated its drone inspection system at the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow.

For more information, check out this article on Airbus and Boeing’s trillion-dollar forecasts.

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