French Startup Further Streamlines Drone-Based MRO Inspections

Credit: Dronetix

French startup Dronetix has developed a new drone-based MRO inspection system that it says is simpler, flexible and more turnkey than other competing products making headway in the aftermarket.

Its Argos drone solution operates without needing to be programmed for specific object types and flying zones. According to Dronetix, the drone is able to analyze the shape of an object it is scanning in real-time, automatically adapting its position to scan 100% of the object. Instead of programming a flight path for the drone using GPS, users can lay out Dronetix’s patented indoor positioning system, called Dronetix Light Track, around the object. The technology—which looks similar to a string of large LED lights—controls the drone’s flight parameters through a sensor installed on the drone.

The Argos drone then flies around the object, capturing 100 high-definition pictures per minute. Embedded object avoidance technology prevents the drone’s collision with the object being scanned. Technicians can control and supervise the drone from the Neocontrol tablet, which runs on an Android platform.

Once a scan is complete, it is automatically analyzed in Dronetix’s Neoviewer software, which can detect damage and construct a 3D model of the scanned object. The software overlays interest points on the object’s digital twin so a technician can identify where potential damage is located.

Dronetix Neoviewer software
Credit: Dronetix

According to Adrien Bombard, co-founder and chief business officer at Dronetix, the solution is already in use at Safran Aircraft Engines within its turbojet production operations and maintenance plants.

“Safran currently uses the Argos solution for a visual inspection before and after MRO,” he says, noting that the drone system provides several benefits. Bombard says the system collects more visual evidence than manual inspections, which increases inspection quality. He also points to its potential for cost reduction and says the visual evidence can be helpful for customer disputes about engine integrity.

Argos is currently capable of inspections in multiple configurations for indoor environments without any prior programming. However, Bombard says the drone could eventually be used for outdoor aircraft inspections if local regulatory authorities approve outdoor operation of autonomous drones.

According to Bombard, Dronetix is working with other aviation industry customers to implement the Argos solution and it is also studying use cases for the maritime industry. Near-term, the startup plans to increase the performance of the drone and the resolution of its pictures, as well as add new types of automatic post-treatments to its Neoviewer software capabilities.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.