Navigating the complexities of aircraft inspection automation: more than just plug-and-play

Navigating the complexities of aircraft inspection automation: more than just plug-and-play


In the landscape of aircraft maintenance and repair, the quest for efficiency is relentless. At Mainblades, we're on a mission to empower airlines and MROs to streamline their maintenance processes through technology.

Our product includes drones for automated image capture and a cloud-based platform for analysis and reporting. However, getting everything to work seamlessly isn't as easy as plug-and-play.

A KLM drone pilot initiating an inspection.

The term "plug-and-play" implies achieving a valuable outcome with effortless integration and minimal configuration. In our context, a valuable outcome would be an actionable inspection result, such as identifying when damage exceeds a certain limit and requires follow-up action.

While the excitement for adopting innovative tools is there, entrenched processes and legacy systems form obstacles. In reality, the implementation of new automation solutions involves navigating through layers of organizational structures and outdated IT systems. So, while our product technically enables fully automatic inspection flows, achieving true plug-and-play functionality remains a dot on the horizon.

But just because our product is not positioned as “plug-and-play” doesn't mean our customers are not succeeding. It simply means we, as a technology partner, are committed to finding the right fit for each application scenario together with our customers. Our vision extends beyond standalone solutions; we're building an ecosystem where our tech plays nicely with both modern solutions and existing infrastructure, even if it's outdated.

Making automated aircraft inspections work is all about making sure technology fits smoothly into the customer's workflow, ensuring minimal operational overhead. For us, this means designing seamless touchpoints between our system and various users in different departments, including hangar operations, maintenance planning, and engineering. Our approach focuses on:

  • Operational continuity: ensuring that our product operates seamlessly during inspections without disrupting ongoing aircraft maintenance. The aircraft can remain in any configuration, and work in and around it can continue safely, thanks to dynamic obstacle avoidance capabilities.
  • Alignment with existing processes: introducing new technology should complement current workflows. We achieve this through the use of "inspection types," which serve as digital equivalents of task cards. Just as mechanics rely on task cards to perform inspections, our drones use inspection types to execute their tasks efficiently.

The commitment to building flexible solutions has so far brought significant successes, and our journey is not characterized by obstacles, but by the milestones our customers achieve. Collaborations with industry leaders like KLM and Delta Air Lines underscore the effectiveness of our joint approach, with drone-based inspection automation now in production use. Even more impressive are the regulatory milestones our customers have achieved, paving the way for more widespread adoption.

Looking ahead, we're confident that the future of inspection automation lies in continued co-creation with our customers. By understanding their unique needs and challenges, we can develop solutions that are not only effective but also seamlessly integrated into their operations. While plug-and-play may remain an aspirational goal, our focus on customized, collaborative solutions ensures a more future-proof approach to aviation maintenance. Join us as we continue to redefine the boundaries of efficiency in aircraft inspection automation.


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