Do drones have a place in airports?

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From Deliveroo to Amazon, surveillance and defence to fun at the park, drones seem to be at the forefront of just about every industry. But are they also the future of transport? Could they be the latest technology to change how we travel by plane?

Airports and airline technology are set to be the latest areas benefiting from advances in drone technology this year, with big names such as EasyJet trialling them for a wide range of purposes. This might seem odd at first, as usually airports are pushing for new regulations to keep drones as far away from airports as possible, but innovative new ideas suggest drones could actually improve safety for airline passengers.

Currently, inspections of aircrafts have to be done visually, checking for damage or problems using engineers. Fuselage inspections can take six hours, but by giving engineers drones they can significantly reduce this time and feel more confident with the accuracy of their checks. Even more excitingly, top of the range visual processing algorithms and 3D-scanning technology could even identify faults and problems and send the information directly to the engineers and maintenance workers. Not only would this cut down on time, it could cut down on costs too, as well as improving working conditions for airport staff.

Automating these inspections following events like lightening, bird or hail strikes using unmanned air vehicles could be revolutionary for the travel technology sector. Initial trials with the UK Civil Aviation Authority have been successful, and this year the system will be rolled out at London airports such as Gatwick and Luton, with future plans for Geneva, Berlin and Milan airports.

Of course, the risk of drones zooming about near planes is still a concern for airports. It has been emphasised that any operations would only take place when the runway was not in use, and it would not affect current regulations that ban others from flying their drones near airports. Nevertheless, this is yet another exciting change to the transport industry that we will be keeping a close eye on, and is ground breaking in the field of airline technology.

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