LATAM cuts aircraft inspections to 40 minutes with drones


LATAM Airlines Group uses drones to inspect aircraft fuselages at its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in São Carlos, Brazil. By using this new technology, the South American airline is speeding up and improving the maintenance process. Let’s investigate further.

Service drones

Doing maintenance checks is something all airlines have to do around the world. Larger airlines like LATAM are investing in building their own MROs to increase internal efficiency and reduce costs.

For example, one of LATAM’s Brazilian rivals, Azul, has saved around US$40 million over the past two years by doing maintenance and repairs in-house. You can read Simple Flying’s tour of Azul’s hangar here.

LATAM has its MRO located in São Carlos, Brazil. This is where the airline is renovating its narrow-body fleet, consisting of Airbus A320s and Airbus A321s.

Earlier this week, Jerome Cadier, CEO of LATAM Airlines Brazil, posted a video showing how the airline performs maintenance checks using drones.

This video shows a small drone flying around an Airbus A319 with a special livery promoting the Rock in Rio 2022 music festival. The drone can be seen taking photos of the fuselage.

How does this help?

Drone technology can help in many areas of the economy. For example, users can use drones to perform maintenance flights in remote areas. In the case of the airline industry, drones can significantly reduce the time a company uses to perform routine checks.

Jerome Cadier said,

“A new marvel from our MRO: drone inspection! We always check every detail of the fuselage of our planes. Now look at the impact that technology can have: now we can perform these maintenance checks using a drone. »

The drone automatically flies around the aircraft and takes around 2,000 detailed photos of the entire fuselage, which can then be analyzed. LATAM also maintains a digital archive of the aircraft.

More importantly, using drones saves time.

“The work that two employees would have done in eight hours, using a platform, is now done in about 40 minutes (plus an extra hour to do the technical analysis,” Cadier added.

Drones can be employed in many tasks, helping the airline industry. Photo: FAA

Other uses of drones

Drones, airlines and airports usually make a bad combination. We have seen incidents around the world of drones flying over nearby airports and shutting them down.

Nevertheless, drones can be a very effective tool to improve many processes in the airline industry. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) used a drone in a simulated exercise last year.

The FAA simulated the response to an Airbus A380 crash and taxiway fire at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

In the past, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) responders at the airport could only see an aircraft crash from the ground, missing an important perspective. Now the ARFF has a new vantage point using drones hovering over the scene.

Imagery provided by drones provides better situational awareness. Brian McKinney, DFW Fire Chief, said having drones that can be deployed in the event of an incident can be a huge benefit to the industry. “In an industry where every second counts, drones can be an integral part of any response.”


Do you think drones could have more uses to help the airline industry? Let us know in the comments below.


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