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Quality - AS9120, ISO 9001:2015, and FAA AC 00-56 Compliant.

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4 Advancements in Aircraft Structural Inspections Technology

07/01/2020 | Fallon Anawalt

Many people in our industry are burdened with the problem of aircraft downtime while various structural inspections take place. These inspections are always a part of our business but wouldn’t it be nice if this downtime could be reduced without a corresponding reduction in safety? Well, that is what the promise of certain innovations in aircraft structural inspections holds. Let’s look at a few of these innovations and how they can help predict when it is time for either replacement or repair of airframe parts.

  • 3D scanning using a laser: 3D scanning technology as a way of detecting aircraft structural defects is actually very developed. It works by detecting damage to the aircraft structure by referencing a digital representation of the airframe. This reference scan can be created from the original CAD model. The scan can also be created with software that helps form a theoretical initial geometry of the airframe.
  • 3D scanning using structured light: 3D scanning using structured light works by projecting a series of linear patterns onto an object, i.e., the airframe to analyze the edges of each line. Doing this allows it to calculate the distance and therefore the shape of the subject. The advantage of this 3D diagnostic tool is that multiples beams can scan multiple points at the same time. This makes structured light 3D scan far more efficient and faster than laser technology.
  • Aircraft inspection using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV): This technique uses UAVs fitted with laser scanning equipment and high definition cameras to inspect various parts of the airframe.
  • Robots: One can scarcely think of an industry that does not utilize robots and AI in some manner. Our industry is, of course, at the forefront of such technologies. In this case, robots are used to move along the surface of the airframe to inspect for damage.

The Final Word

All these technologies still rely on human interaction and human judgment. Nothing will replace that even though the tools we use to inspect airframes become ever more sophisticated. A human judgment must still be made as to when to replace the airframe part for the sake of safety.