The Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force (CTF) of the U.S. Air Force’s 412th Test Wing recently used a 3D Robotics drone to carry out a maintenance inspection of the exterior of a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane.
According to an Air Force press release, the test team conducted three flights with the quadcopter, fitted with a video camera, whose live footage was assessed by a team that included maintainers, who determined if the quality of the video would be adequate for routine inspections. The flights took place at the Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Maj. Dan Riley, CTF director, deemed the tests successful; in fact, the maintainers used the data to sign off on their preflight external inspection.
Inspections that would normally take 45 minutes to an hour to complete could be done just in a few minutes with a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS), the Air Force says, adding that maintainers would also not need to a lift to inspect a C-17’s tail.
“Another reason we’ve conducted this test is to open the aperture on flying a sUAS near the airfield, which has been frowned upon in the past,” Riley says. “As we execute these missions, it establishes a baseline for how operations can be conducted safely, not only here at Edwards, but at other bases, as well.”
The CTF, which was established last July, says its mission is to “provide agile, innovative flight test capabilities for emerging technologies and to explore the Air Force warfighting capabilities of tomorrow.”
In February, the CTF also tested a quadcopter to determine if the technology would be able to calibrate the 412th Range Squadron’s telemetry antennas on base; those tests also yielded successful results, the Air Force says.