A team consisting of Ferrovial, Ferrovial Airports, Southampton Airport and AmeyVTOL (a joint venture between VTOL Technologies and Amey) has carried out a proof of concept using drones for airport asset management tasks.
The trial was carried out at Southampton Airport (SOU) in the UK. Its objectives were to prove that drones could be used within visual line of sight (WVLOS) to replace or complement manual inspection activities. The device deployed was a Skyjib 8 HL Quadcopter, which undertook the following activities:
- Pavement inspections (stands, taxiways and runway)
- Perimeter fence inspections
- Building inspections
During a 5-hour test, the drone captured high-definition video and more than 900 high-definition images at 5, 10 and 20m (16, 33 and 66ft) above ground. Both formats produced results that enabled detection of defects such as small cracks in the runway surface to a level of accuracy greater than is possible with the naked eye. The team also quantified costs and savings, concluding that greater benefits were achieved with Level 3 pavement inspections and building inspections that otherwise would have required scaffolding. The next step will be to analyse the application of drones at other facilities managed by Ferrovial Airports such as London Heathrow, Glasgow and Aberdeen. Inspection regimes will also be established that could deliver services on an ongoing basis, potentially autonomously, as a first step towards a more commercially viable use of unmanned aerial systems.
Dave Lees, Managing Director of Southampton Airport, stated: “Southampton Airport constantly evaluates emerging new technologies, and the trial utilising drone technology has highlighted a potential breakthrough methodology to enhance both the efficiency and effectiveness of some of the airport’s operational activities.”
Picture: Ferrovial has trialled the use of drones for runway inspections at Southampton Airport. (Ferrovial)