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Aviation News Drone maintenance for the A400M

Drone maintenance for the A400M

Helen Chachaty
21 JUN 2019 | 270 words
Drone maintenance for the A400M
© Pablo Cabellos
Airbus Defence & Space's latest ambition is to develop its drone maintenance capabilities. The European aircraft manufacturer has signed a cooperation agreement with the Spanish air force to develop and R&D project which implements a drone inspection system, along with an augmented reality visualisation tool. Initially, this technology will be applied to maintenance for the Ejército del aire's A400M fleet based in Zaragoza, before potentially being extended to the C295 and CN235 - or even A330 MRTT fleets.

The project is intended to reduce inspection times during plane maintenance operations. It involves a drone equipped with sensors and an HD camera to be able to scan the entire external structure of the plane as part of a maintenance inspection. The images collected can then be viewed on a tablet and with augmented reality goggles. This system will reduce inspections to "just two hours" instead of "several weeks" using current methods.

Experiments on an operational fleet should enable users to get to grips with managing a drone flight around the plane in complete safety, but also to develop operating procedures for the wealth of data which will be collected. This data will be integrated into a database which will support the development of artificial intelligence dedicated to fault detection.

This project is part of the SmartForce suite which was presented at the Farnborough air show in July 2018. The product of a joint project between Airbus Defence & Space and Airbus Helicopters, based on the Skywise civilian version, the system seeks to "optimise" maintenance operations via digital tools and services, from diagnostics to predictive maintenance.
 
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