The 36th Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force tested the use of a DJI Phantom 4 drone to inspect the C-17A Globemaster, a tactical troop transport and cargo aircraft. The goal was to validate whether or not drones could reduce safety risks for maintenance teams.

The Phantom 4 was used to survey the hard to reach vertical stabalizer on the C-17A. Conducted in less than 30 minutes time, it eliminated the need for elevated platforms and crawling through a small tunnel inside the structure.

In addition to the safety and time benefits, the drones provide high-resolution images and videos, that can be stored on record for all stakeholders involved in the aircraft’s operation, including the Heavy Airlift Systems Program Office, Boeing, and the Defence Science and Technology Group.

RAAF Commander Air Mobility Group Air Commodore William Kourelakos said: “This is an excellent example of bottom-led innovation from No 36 Squadron in response to the Air Force Safety Always Program (ASAP).”

With indications of early success, the Air Mobility Group will be looking into the viability of utilizing drones for inspections across the entirety of the fleet.

The Royal Australian Artillery’s 20th Surveillance and Target Acquisition Regiment introduced the Phantom 4 and its capabilities to the No 36 Squadron. That Australian Army Regiment had extensive experience flying that specific model, and had learned how to manage and download the data from it securely.

The decision to utilize DJI products by any division of the Australian Defence Force is a reversal of the previous grounding of the brand’s drones due to security concerns.

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