German airliner Lufthansa will acquire a drone fleet to launch a range of new services.
The drones, to be delivered by Chinese manufacturer DJI, will be used for various tasks including aircraft inspections, wind farm monitoring and even pilot training.
The drone fleet will be managed by Lufthansa Aerial Services, the airlines’ consulting division, which plans to develop a whole range of commercial applications.
British low-budget airline EasyJet is already using drones, but only for inspections of its own aircraft. Lufthansa appears to be going one step further and offering the services of its drone fleet to paying customers.
“Lufthansa will offer clients a one-stop UAV-shop,” said Andreas Jahnke, Managing Director of Lufthansa Consulting. “This includes everything from application consulting and drone operation with data analysis, to training and certification of drone pilots at Lufthansa Flight Training, or even the provision of drone insurance solutions through Delvag, Lufthansa’s in-house insurer.”
The company has already carried out several pilot projects. In cooperation with the operator of Frankfurt Airport, it has experimented with using drones for checking runways. It has also joined forces with a manufacturer of wind turbines to see whether the technology could be used for inspections of turbine blades. Lufthansa Technik has been using the technology to assess outer surfaces of aeroplanes for damage. The drones, equipped with thermal-imaging systems, could also be used for inspections of solar farms, railroad lines, construction sites or crops.
Lufthansa spokesperson said the firm will make a final decision on whether to commit to drone technology by the end of this year.
Lufthansa runs maintenance and catering divisions alongside its traditional airline business. It said last year it wanted to use its experience in pilot training, flying and maintenance to enter the field of commercial drones.