EasyJet Plc said it will begin using drones to inspect jets on the ground starting next year and is experimenting with the 3-D printing of replacement parts as it pursues innovations to keep costs down.
The airline said it has succeeded in using a drone to inspect one of its planes and will roll out the robots at engineering bases over the next 12 months. The technology is intended to trim the number of hours jetliners are out of service, the Luton, England-based company said in a statement.
Europe’s second-biggest discount carrier is looking for ways to use technology to cut costs and trim delays caused by mechanical failures. Technologies under development include three-dimensional printing to replace cabin parts such as armrests, reducing repair times and the need for storage space, and in-flight troubleshooting of technical problems in conjunction with Airbus Group SE, which supplies its planes.
“We have made great strides on our work with drone technology,” Chief Executive Carolyn McCall said in the statement, adding that EasyJet is continuing to “look for new and original innovations to help run our operation smoothly.”
Drones could be used to pick up damage caused by a lightning strike, the kind of incident that can require a full day of inspections. An overnight delay can cost as much as 15,000 pounds ($23,133), EasyJet has said.