Drones & Airports: Can drones be used to inspect runways?

Drones have been around for a long time but in recent years the application of the ‘multi-rotor’ design has taken up the number one spot in both commercial and hobby sectors. So naturally, there is a new task or application being considered with their use nearly daily.

We’ve seen everything from the beautiful aesthetic video in blockbuster films, structural inspections, to coordinated light shows from swarms of these brilliant machines, and of course everything in-between.

Dronely always takes the approach of thinking how can we make our systems work for the client. Not a day goes by where we don’t think – ‘what’s next? How can that be made easier? How can drones make X more efficient?!’.

Recently the news has started to cover the use of drones with more rigour, and much are reports of ‘possible’ drone sightings near airports or runways, so naturally many shy away from the idea of using these machines in the proximity of an airport for the fear of endangering travelers and aircraft.

The reality is much different, drones have been used on site at airports for a while now, Easyjet even has its own fleet for inspections. The truth is, drones provide a level of access unmatched by other current methods, and they will only become more practical as time goes on and attitudes evolve toward them.

With that in mind, we thought it was time to look at another area where drones could be useful at airports. The thought? Apart from the aircraft, what else is absolutely integral to a safe flight?

The Runway, of course! It comes back to that old saying by Sir Isaac Newton – ‘What goes up, must come down’.


Cement Construction Labor Worker Runway Patching – Image courtesy (CC) of Max Pixel

Runway maintenance is no small task, it’s a constant cycle of checks and repairs.

Runway surface integrity is met through regular inspections. Maintenance requires renewal of the wearing surface (the top). The intervals at which the re-surfacing occurs is dependent on the type of surface. Concrete and asphalt are the most commonly used surfaces. Not only does the surface need to be re-made, rubber deposits also needs to be removed.

Just from a visual point, drones can speed up the identification of issues such as rubber deposits, cracks, and other wear on the surface of the runway. Dronely is currently working towards creating a solution to use drones to carry out such tasks.

The goal here is not just to fly around and mark potential areas for detailed inspection and/or repair, that’s the starting point, the end goal is for the system to intelligently identify issues and report them back to the repair team.

For more information go to Dronely’s website: www.dronely.uk


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