In a move of great significance for airline maintenance, Aviation Week reports that having investigated the use of drones for aircraft inspections for several years, ST Engineering’s aerospace division has moved a step closer to rolling out the technology after gaining approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to carry out general visual inspection work.

The authorization, confirmed on June 16, is the first to be granted for the use of unmanned aerial systems to perform general visual inspection on Singapore-registered aircraft. ST Engineering has developed its DroScan solution since 2017 as part of its four-pillar Smart MRO initiative, made up of digitization, data analytics, additive manufacturing and automation projects.

It will initially be used on narrowbody aircraft such as the Airbus A320 family, but eventually ST Engineering will look to extend the use of DroScan to more aircraft types including widebody models, along with further developing a new robotic platform for inspections involving contact-based measurements. 

DroScan, which has spent the past 12 months undergoing trials with airline customers including Air New Zealand, leverages automation and smart analytics capabilities with the aim of ensuring better efficiency and workplace safety for engineers and technicians undertaking maintenance tasks at height. ST Engineering says that it eliminates the need to set up ground equipment such as boomlifts and work stands typically used by technicians during manual inspections.

Instead, technicians can conduct indirect general visual inspection using live video feed and post-flight images captured by the drones. These captured images are then fed through algorithms which detect and classify defects to assist the inspectors in the review process. 

Speaking of the DroScan platform, Lim Serh Ghee, president of Aerospace, ST Engineering, says: “This is one of the many initiatives that we will roll out progressively to digitally transform our hangars and facilities into a smarter environment, which will allow our customers to better enjoy value added services such as up-to-speed or even real time update of their aircraft maintenance progress.” 

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