LATAM Expands Drone-based Aircraft Inspections

Credit: LATAM

LATAM Airlines Group is expanding its usage of drones for aircraft inspections following successful tests in Brazil.

The airline was the first in Latin America to deploy Donecle drones in 2020, following a three-month trial at its MRO facilities in Sao Carlos, Brazil. It has been testing the drones for exterior inspections of aircraft fuselages at the site, where the technology takes thousands of detailed photos and uses artificial intelligence to identify potential damage and possible required repairs. According to LATAM, preliminary results of the tests have shown that the drones reduce inspection time from eight hours to 40 mins.

Now, LATAM plans to extend drone testing to its maintenance center in Santiago, Chile.

“At LATAM we see this technology as an opportunity to improve and optimize our aircraft maintenance and inspection processes,” says Marcos Melchiori, LATAM’s senior manager of MRO in Sao Carlos. “We are constantly looking for new tools that allow us to establish more efficient and precise processes, with the safety of our passengers and collaborators as the top priority.”

In addition to drones, LATAM has also rolled out augmented reality glasses in its maintenance operations for inspections and remote technical support. It began implementing AR ‘SmartGlass’ equipment in April at 20 company bases in Brazil. A LATAM representative says it is the first airline in Latin America to use the equipment.

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.