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Phantom Drone with the C-17A

Photo: Sergeant Andrew Whitelaw, from 16 Air Land Regiment and Corporal Kelvin Green, Aircraft Surface Finisher at Royal Australian Air Force No.36 Squadron, use a Phantom drone to inspect the upper surfaces of a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster at RAAF Base Amberley. Photo: Cpl Kylie Gibson/Australian Army

 

Sergeant Andrew Whitelaw, from 16 Air Land Regiment and Corporal Kelvin Green, Aircraft Surface Finisher at Royal Australian Air Force No.36 Squadron, use a Phantom drone to inspect the upper surfaces of a Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster at RAAF Base Amberley. Photo: Cpl Kylie Gibson/Australian Army

MILITARY

Routine servicing of Royal Australian Air Force No. 36 Squadron C-17A Globemasters at RAAF Base Amberley is now being undertaken with DJI Phantom 4 drone.

The small UAV has been introduced, said a Royal Australian Air Force statement, to inspect hard-to-reach areas of the C-17A, reducing height risks to personnel and helping to build a ‘history’ of damage to an aircraft.

Air Commodore William Kourelakos, Commander Air Mobility Group, said the idea to use a drone to assist in maintenance inspections came from within the unit, and Squadron Leader Evan Smith, Senior Engineering Officer for No. 36 Squadron, explained the drone was introduced with help from Royal Australian Artillery’s 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment.

Sqn Ldr Smith said: “The Army has extensive experience using this particular model, and managing the information downloaded from it. We manage the drone through a standalone laptop and have been able to adapt Army’s practices to suit our needs. To use it at RAAF Base Amberley, we’ve sought approvals from 452 Squadron as the aerodrome operator, and through Defence’s Airworthiness Coordination and Policy Agency.”

The Phantom’s value is being demonstrated during the Home Station Check, a routine servicing conducted on each C-17A every 180 days. Part of the check includes inspecting any paint or other surface damage on the aircraft, including the tail section.

Until now, the maintenance teams have used elevated platforms or climbed through a small tunnel inside the aircraft’s vertical stabiliser to check the tail section.

Sqn Ldr Smith said the drone can be used to conduct these surveys in as little as 30 minutes

Imagery is shot in high-resolution stills and video, and can be provided to agencies including the Heavy Airlift Systems Program Office, Boeing, and the Defence Science and Technology Group. The imagery is archived, enabling an airframe’s history of paint degradation or surface damage to be charted or compare across the fleet.

Source: Royal Australian Air Force

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