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Drone Works In Airports – Wait… What?

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Every drone owner out there has a good idea of where he/she can and can’t fly. Authorities and manufacturers have made a good effort to make everybody aware of the importance of operating in safe environments. But what if getting inside the most restricted airspace is where the real benefit (and business) is?

The case of Canarddrone

The past 14th of October during an important tech startup competition, someone raised his hand to ask a question during a panel of experts about new aerospace businesses. The question was simple: what advice would the big players in the sector (aircraft manufacturers and Airlines) give to a drone startup that wants to operate inside airports?

The answer was quite fast and unanimous from all the experts. Drones must stay away from airports and the recommendation was to change his business model. Ironically, a few hours later one of them was giving to the same man who asked the question the award to the best Transportation and Mobility Startup in the competition.  The reason? Canarddrone, a dutch startup, uses drones to inspect and calibrate the lighting systems on airport runways (e.g. PAPI lights). Until now, the process of calibrating such systems required flying a full-scale aircraft repeatedly over them with a high cost for the airport.

Aircraft Inspections

Two necessary tasks to be performed on aircrafts every time they land and before they take off again are the pre-flight and post-flight inspections. These are visual inspections performed by ground staff walking around the aircraft to detect any exterior damage and can take up to two hours in some cases.

A rule of thumb in the passenger transport world is that whenever an aircrafts is not flying it is making the airline loose money. So for almost any airline, reducing the times required for ground operations other than loading or unloading payload is a nº1 priority.

In order to reduce these turnaround times, Airbus demonstrated last July at the Farnborough Airshow that this job can be done faster and more efficiently with a drone and image processing algorithms.

We might still be months or years away from seeing these companies doing drone works in every major airport, but the foundations are there and solid structures are being built on top of them every day.

Note: The author’s intention with this article is far from encouraging drone pilots to fly around restricted areas. Instead, these are two examples of how creativity and unmanned aerial systems can help in even more ways that we had previously thought of.

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