EasyJet is to investigate using unnamed mini drones to carry out inspections on its fleet of 220 Airbus aircraft.
The drones, with fly using six small propellers, will be programmed to scan and assess aircraft and report back on any damage which may require further inspection or maintenance work.
The drones are currently in development with a view to trialling them in the coming months and introducing them into operation as early as next year.
The airline’s head of engineering Ian Davies said: “Drone technology could be used extremely effectively to help us perform aircraft checks. Checks that would usually take more than a day could be performed in a couple of hours and potentially with greater accuracy.”
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “We have examined and assessed cutting edge technology across many different industries and are now applying a range of new technologies to the aviation sector for the first time to help us run our fleet of aircraft more effectively, efficiently and safely.
“The advantage of these emerging technologies is threefold – freeing up our engineering team to undertake more skilled tasks, keeping our costs down which in turn keeps our fares low and helping to minimise delays so maintaining our industry leading punctuality for our passengers.
“Safety is our number one priority and so all of these new technologies will be applied by our experienced engineering and flight crew to ensure our leading safety record is maintained.”
Dr Arthur Richards, head of aerial robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Aircraft inspection is a great application for drones. Coupled with smart navigation and computer vision, they can get accurate data from really awkward places.
“We look forward to working with easyJet to develop safe, effective and efficient drone systems for this challenge.”