New application performs drone inspection of aircraft within hour
There is a new application in the making that makes it possible to carry out a full drone inspection of the exterior of an aircraft within sixty minutes. To this end, drone manufacturer Donecle, 3D mapping specialist 8tree and developer of military aircraft Dassault have entered into a partnership. The application called flying dentCHECK should revolutionize inspections, maintenance and repairs of and to civilian and military aircraft.
In order to fly safely and reliably, aircraft must be checked regularly for damage such as bumping and dents in hull and wings. In the past, this happened visually and by hand, nowadays laser scanners and drones are increasingly used for this. The advantage of a drone is that it can take an aircraft from all angles; the disadvantage is that very complex waypoint missions have to be carried out to cover the entire plane surface. Preparing for that is a time-consuming job.
Flying dentCHECK is intended to automate this process considerably and thereby accelerate it. The main goal behind the development of flying dentCHECK was to have a drone efficiently and quickly inspected 100% of an aircraft’s body for dents using light scanners, and provide consistent results in all conditions. Another purpose was to use a 3D scanner and associated software to identify and measure dents, impact, misalignments and other damage.
To enable such automated drone inspections, the existing navigation technology was improved with advanced stability algorithms. It was also ensured that the shots are automatically adapted to various factors such as lighting, surface color and scanned materials. The 3D models generated by the application are automatically compared with models of identical, pristine aircraft, in order to result in deviations on the track.
Measured within the hour
The app was tested at the beginning of September a French air base. In just 60 minutes, the flying dentCHECK application had created a complete model of the investigated Rafale fighter aircraft, with an accuracy of 0.1mm in depth and 2mm in width. According to the developers, the application can measure aircraft of all shapes and sizes with the same degree of precision and safety verification.
“The 100% automated dentCHECK drastically reduces the time it takes to inspect an aircraft, while significantly improving the quality of the maintenance work,” says 8tree-CTO Erik Klaas. “It’s about automating non-destructive test tasks and procedures.”
All data obtained by the dentCHECK — including all recordings, location information and dent measurements — are stored in a digital database. This makes it possible to follow the order of damage and shape changes over time. As a result, repairs and maintenance can be better planned, which in turn should lead to less downtime and improved aircraft safety.
Both Donecle and 8tree will present the flying dentCHECK application at the MRO Europe fair that will take place this week in RAI Amsterdam.