Usually when you hear “drone” and “aeroplane” in the same sentence, what comes next is a moralistic tale about how irresponsible drone pilots pose serious threats to airlines. That’s why it’s kind of weird when one of Europe’s largest airlines partners with arguably the biggest civilian drone maker in the world.
German-operated Lufthansa and DJI are beginning a new program to see if drones could help inspect aircraft surfaces and turbine engines after bird strikes and, less face it, future drone strikes as well. Drones could even help air traffic controllers check runways.
Yes, drones may one day zip around airports on purpose.
According to Reuters, the airline also sees drones, equipped with thermal imaging, as hugely beneficial for looking at infrastructure like railroad lines, solar farms, crops and construction sites. It’s already been using drones to inspect wind turbine blades as part of a pilot program.
The relationship between aeroplanes and drones is much more complex than “never the twain shall meet”, but the final decision on whether the airline will fully embrace a drone-filled future won’t be made until the end of this year.