Lightning strikes can affect airline operations and cause costly delays and service interruptions. Strikes to airplanes are relatively common but rarely result in a significant impact to the continued safe operation of the airplane.
When commercial airplanes are struck by lightning, the result can range from no damage to serious damage that requires extensive repairs that can take the airplane out of service for an extended period of time. Having an understanding of the typical effects of lightning strikes and proper damage inspection procedures can prepare operators to act quickly when a lightning strike is reported to apply the most effective maintenance actions.
“The easiest way to spot lightning damage is to look for signs on the exterior: burn marks and small holes, and even missing bits at the plane’s extremities, like the wing tips. That means pulling the plane from service for a manual inspection, which takes a full day.” – Boeing.com
To reduce that downtime—and thus increase the amount of money a plane can generate—companies are testing a new ways of inspecting jets: with an automated drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The drone will fly around a plane from approximately three feet away (using lasers to determine its distance) and locate damage caused by lightning strikes.
Boeing announced it has successfully tested the process, and found it could complete in a few hours what used to take a full day of inspections.