The US Air Force (USAF) has used a quadcopter for the first time to conduct a post-flight inspection on a C-17 Globemaster III tactical transport aircraft.
The 412th Test Wing’s Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force (CTF) conducted three test sorties using a quadcopter to carry out a maintenance inspection of the exterior of the aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
The video recorded by a camera fitted on the small unmanned aerial system (sUAS) will be analysed to see if it is clear enough to see smaller details of the cargo plane’s exterior such as structural abnormalities, rivets and cracks, the USAF stated.
CTF director Major Dan Riley said that the test "was so successful that the maintainers used the data to sign off their preflight external inspection, a first for the Air Force".
Commenting on the inspection, JB Lewis-McChord 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron staff sergeant Joshua Jaburek said: “This could save (maintainers) a lot of time.
“When we go on top of the aeroplane, we can only walk over certain parts and then we have to hook and unhook our (safety harness) very few feet.”
The CTF plans to conduct a variety of other missions in the near future such as roof inspections, airfield inspections and environmental concern area inspections.
In February this year, the CTF commences testing of a quadcopter to determine if it was possible to use the sUAS to calibrate the 412th Range Squadron’s telemetry antennas on base.
The CTF is responsible for providing agile, innovative flight test capabilities for emerging technologies and to explore the air force's future warfighting capabilities.
Image: The 412th Test Wing’s Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force using a quadcopter to inspect a C-17 Globemaster III. Photo: courtesy of the US Air Force photo / Kenji Thuloweit.