Our solution is provided as Drone-as-a-Tool (DaaT). This means that we deliver hard- and software including the maintenance, spare parts, and software upgrades to perform aircraft inspections using a drone. This solution helps to optimize maintenance activities, reduces inspection times, supports analysis of damages on the aircraft, and automatically generates reports.
Airlines and MROs seeking to more efficiently, more accurately inspect aircraft during maintenance. Besides this, aircraft manufacturers (OEM’s) who are willing to ensure the highest level of quality before delivery.
The solution offered by Mainblades is fast, safe, and easy. It is a full end-to-end package including the drone, an iPad Pro with our Flight iOS app, the image analysis software as well as the secured cloud environment hosting. Our drone is 100% automated (no pilot) and does not require any GPS as it uses LiDAR positioning technology. It has been specifically designed to fly around aircraft and because of that enables engineers and MROs to acquire a complete “snapshot” of the aircraft at a specific moment in time. There are currently no other means of acquiring such a comprehensive set of structured data during an aircraft visual inspection to report on its status.
Yes. Our proprietary ISAAC module was developed by experienced robotics, automation & aircraft engineers. We continue to develop and assemble it in-house specifically for aircraft drone inspections. It allows us to take into account stringent safety requirements associated with flying in a demanding environment around a multimillion-dollar aircraft. Our obstacle avoidance feature for example makes sure that between each waypoint the path is checked for collisions and replans if necessary. Besides this, a diagnostics feature checks for possible errors and warnings of the hard and software and will communicate this to the user immediately. Lastly, the iPad shows a detailed location of where the drone is currently while flying an inspection. 2D views of the top and side of the aircraft are used so that the user can get a holistic understanding of the drone location at any moment.
Using drones for aircraft inspections brings along three main benefits: cost savings, continuous income, and increased safety. The usual man-hours spent on inspecting and reporting the damage assessment of an aircraft are considerably decreased. Less aircraft downtime for maintenance means more savings in lease. Secondly, as an airline, by increasing your fleet availability, you gain more flight time. As an MRO, you can provide aircraft inspections using our tool as a service to generate additional income. Lastly, aircraft engineers no longer need to operate heavy equipment or face dangerous situations on heights which significantly increases safety.
We enable our customers to perform aircraft drone inspections themselves, which can be described as a three-step process. In the first step, 400 high-resolution pictures of the entire skin of the aircraft are being taken with the help of the drone. No licensed drone operator is needed for this since the drone is automated and uses LiDAR technology to position itself. The second step is to process the images. Thanks to Mainblades’ software which automatically identifies defects, detailed reports are generated (Dent-and-Buckle Report). The last step concerns data storage. The reports are saved on a cloud platform allowing users to build a digital history of their aircraft fleet and to keep track of past inspections.
The drone is able to capture images of the upper and lower parts, the wings (top and bottom parts), the tailplane as well as the radome. This means it covers the complete external surface of the aircraft which makes it especially useful for engineers to reach areas which are normally difficult to access.
Mainblades is able to inspect any kind of aircraft ranging from regional aircraft types such as Embraer 190, Airbus A220, as well narrowbody aircraft such as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 as well as widebody aircraft types such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.
Normally we setup a cooperation with airlines in 3 phases.
Phase 1/ Feasibility: the first step would be Mainblades executing a study to check whether and how drones are usable for the airline. We would be talking through: use cases; defining business cases; checking what needs to be done from certification point of view, financials, and your requirements for the demonstration (acceptance criteria). . The deliverable of this phase is a feasibility report.
·Phase 2/ Demonstration: on location our engineers show what our technical capabilities are; we check together whether this meets the acceptance criteria set in Phase 1.
Phase 3/ Implementation: if all goes well, at the end of Phase 2 we will be discussing how to follow up, and get drones implemented into your hangars. This is setup in Phase 3.
You can use a drone for aircraft inspections in your hangar without permission from local aviation authorities. We recommend informing the local airport authorities about your drone flight because the drone will be detected.
The usage of drones in open airport environments is regulated in a tight way. There are two leading regulators: the US FAA and EASA, which is the European equivalent. In addition, there is a variety of national authorities in Europe from which we need to get permission for unlocking the drone to enable it to fly in an airport environment. Our vision however is that in the future drones will inspect aircraft on such a regular basis that no additional permissions are needed. We hope to see unmanned and manned aircraft operate safely side by side one day.
Our drone solution is developed for both indoor and outdoor use. Right now, Mainblades is working inside hangars only, due to airport limitations regarding the use of drones.
To make outdoor flights a reality, we are going through the phases for approval of outdoor flights under EASA regulations in cooperation with the Dutch civil aviation authority. Once approved, our operational procedures will be transferable to all EASA compliant aviation authorities worldwide.
Performing outdoor inspections would allow the reservation of hangar space for heavy-duty maintenance and scheduled inspections. In the meantime, light inspections could be done in front of the hangar, on parking spots, or at the gate in the future.
The Mainblades Flight App for iPads includes a dent & buckle reporting feature which provides a good overview of damages as well as their current status. This way, the current manual paper-based process is transformed into an easy and intuitive on-site damage recording.
The drone does not measure the depth of damages. However, the application allows the aircraft engineer to enter such details manually after the drone has finished mapping the entire aircraft.
We aim that our drone is regarded as a tool that is usable for accomplishment of standard OEM mandated inspections on all aircraft models. At this point in time our solution is not certified for Boeing nor Airbus. However, this is not a big problem as OEM certification is actually not required in order for the drone to be used. Why? Because as long as an airline has a recognised Part145 MRO organization, this MRO organization can actually validate and use the tool.
The drone and our complementing iPad application is meant as a supportive tool for the engineers, not as a replacement. With ou Mainblades Flight App engineers can see pictures of the entire aircraft, review damages and compare the data with existing dent-and-buckle charts. When our AI-based algorithm has detected damages, it will provide information about damage type, location and size to the engineer in the form of a report that is according to the industry-wide station and stringers format. In any case, the engineer will always still have to validate this data.
Currently, our software does not create 3D animated models of the aircraft and the flying path. Instead, 400 high-resolution images are captured creating a comprehensive overview of the status of the aircraft.