We are convinced: an aircraft drone inspection should be fast, safe and easy. Our software and development teams have worked hard in the past months to create an interface that facilitates exactly that. Today, we launch a big release that features a variety of updates to all three components of our inspection ecosystem: the iOS iPad application, the drone and the web portal. We are proud to present an all-mobile experience that not only adheres to industry standards but also comes with more intuitive user interfaces and improved system stability. Here is what’s new:
1. Improved user interface / experience
Any aircraft can be damaged. That is why most aircraft manufactures established a method of locating all components on the aircraft so that maintenance and repairs can be carried out reliably. The aircraft maintenance manuals (AMM) and the structural repair manuals (SRM) are the points of reference for this. They provide industry wide accepted definitions on how to assess, classify as well as how to repair the damage.
When developing our Mainblades iPad Flight application we keep this in mind. One of the biggest new features is therefore the categorization of damages along station and stringers. Damages captured by the drone are accurately reflected in an illustration. From here, the user is led to a table that gives a complete overview of all damages listed with their location, dimension and SRM classification.
In the last step, the engineer gets the chance to make a final damage assessment. Every log can be individually selected, bringing up a high-definition picture of the damage. The engineer can either accept or reject damages, change boxing or add new damages. All manually added damages can also be classified according to the SRM.
2. Integration of high performance lidar
Our drone needs to ensure that a safe and reliable flight plan is developed when flying in dynamic environments such as airports. To achieve this, we utilize lidar technology. Recently our drone hardware received a big upgrade by utilizing a new lidar module. The integration of this new module into our software stack is therefore playing a big part in our latest release as well. There are many different factors that needed to be considered, including the altitude, speed, distance to the aircraft as well as other things such as weather conditions and structures present within the area of operation. As the above image shows, the new lidar module provides us with highly detailed maps of the environment. Additionally, it supports us with significantly improved data for our dent classification algorithm.
To make further improvements like this easier to implement in the future, our development teams started utilizing Docker, an open platform for developing, shipping, and running applications. Docker enables us to separate our applications from our infrastructure so that we can deliver software much quicker. Implementing the new lidar hardware into our software stack is a great example.
3. Enhanced functionality of web portal
Our drone is already capable to conduct an automated inspection of the complete aircraft. However, not in every situation that is actually desired. Sometimes checking only a few parts of the surface is just enough for a quick check. That is why we enhanced the functionality of our backend web portal to facilitate that. A big part of our release is therefore option to create custom flight paths which allows to stay flexible in every situation. Once an aircraft has been digitally mapped, specific areas can be selected to have the drone inspect only these parts. For the moment this is a feature only available for internal purposes only, but we are already working hard to make this available to users in the iPad application as well.
What does this mean for users?
1. Intuitive reporting
Through the Mainblades Flight application damage reports are easily created, reviewed and shared within team of experts. The integration of the station and stringers format means that aircraft engineers work with a format that is already familiar to them and the industry. Additionally, the clear link between data and photos makes it now easier to understand what type of damages have been found, where they are located and how they look. The review procedure goes from broad to narrow for each damage respectively, allowing the engineer to maintain a clear overview of the inspection progress at all times.
2. Improved safety
Integrating the new high-performance lidar module into our software is going to have a profound effect on the safety and accuracy of operations. The high data density means that the damage output is much more accurate in terms of size and location. Additionally, it enhances the drones’ capabilities to navigate through a busy and uncleared hangar environment. While performing the automated flight, it is able to confidently recognize obstacles and fly around them. For a user performing an aircraft drone inspection this means zero preparations in advance and peace of mind during flying. It also means that all regular ongoing maintenance operations can continue safely during the flight.
3. Outdoor inspections
The high-quality data from the new lidar module is an enabling technology for outdoor drone inspections. This is a true game changer for the industry. No aircraft repositioning or special preparations required. Outdoor inspections are going to help stakeholders to improve turnaround times, while increasing safety and speed of operation. Because all components on the drone are water resistant and capable to cope with strong winds, users can perform outdoor inspections comfortably without having to worry about damaging the hardware.
4. Full control of your inspection
With the enhanced functionality of the backend web portal users stay in complete control of the inspection. Pre-defined, standard flight paths will already be available. However, do you suspect damage on a specific part of the aircraft? Do you want to inspect only the nose or only the tail? That is possible now! Rather than inspecting the complete surface this feature allows to quickly assess the status of a specific part. Our mapping and navigation algorithms ensure that the area that was selected is fully covered by the photographs the drone captures of that area.
5. Round the clock support & updates
By taking advantage of the Docker methodology for writing, testing, and deploying code quickly, we can now significantly reduce the delay between writing code and running it in production. For users this means that the drone can now connect to our team of experts remotely. We are able to run constant diagnostics and track the status of the drone without being on-site. Whether you need assistance overnight, during the week, or even on the weekend, one of our engineers will be available to provide it. This also includes receiving important software updates. We constantly push our technology further, adding new features that are available to all customers immediately. This will become especially useful when several drones are in use at different locations simultaneously.
Get in touch!
The release is in line with our vision to build a powerful and easy to use aircraft drone inspection tool for airlines, MROs and aircraft operators.
Would you like to check out the updates yourself first hand? You can! Head over to the Apple Appstore, download the Mainblades Flight App and request your access today!
Is your organization considering stepping up the innovation game? What do you make of the recent updates? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to reach out to us!