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 programme to see if drones could help inspect aircraft surfaces and turbine engines after bird strikes, and let's 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 thermal imaging, as hugely beneficial for looking at infrastructure, like railway 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/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.