EasyJet aims to bring drone inspections of its aircraft at its engineering bases across Europe within 12 months.
The budget carrier says tests prove that pre-programmed drones could help reduce the number of hours an aircraft is out of service after events such as lightning strikes compared to manual inspections.
The move is part of an increasing use of new technology in a bid to eliminate technical-related flight delays.
These have been cut from 10 delays per 1,000 flight movements to six delays per 1,000 over the past five years, according to the airline.
EasyJet is also trialling the use of 3D printing to replace parts within the cabin like arm rests, which speeds up the replacement process and reduces the storage of spares.
New digital innovations designed to make travel easier for passengers have also been a focus for the airline, including a new iPhone app and Apple Watch app.
Chief executive, Carolyn McCall, said:
“Last year we presented a range of new and emerging technologies that we intended to apply to the aviation sector for the first time to help us run our fleet of aircraft more effectively, efficiently and safely.
“A number of these technologies have now been implemented into our everyday operation including flying our fleet of planes with entirely paperless cockpits, using apps to help to simplify processes like managing our fan changes after a bird strike and an app for our ops control centre to help engineers and crew resolve technical issues with easyJet’s aircraft across the airline’s network.
“Since then we have continued to look for new and original innovations to help run our operation smoothly and ensure passengers get to where they need to go safely and on time.
“We have made great strides on our work with drone technology having successfully tested automated drone inspections of our aircraft and we have agreed a new collaboration with Airbus for an inflight prognosis tool. Both of these support our aim of eliminating technical related delays.
“All of this work is aimed at further increasing reliability of our aircraft and therefore improving our passengers’ experience.
“We have also been investing in digital innovations including a new iPhone app, our bespoke Apple Watch app and a new digital self-managing tool that will hand back power to passengers so they can book their own accommodation and flights in event of flight disruption.”