Quadcopter Inspects B-52 on USAF Taxiway

Edwards 1Reposted from UAS VISION (http://ift.tt/2o8axwG)

An unusual aircraft went through its motions on the Edwards Air Force Base flightline March 16 when a small quadcopter equipped with a camera took to the sky to perform a visual inspection of a B-52 Stratofortress.

This was the first-ever test using a small unmanned aerial system near an active taxiway on an Air Force flightline.

As aircraft taxied by on their way to launch or recovery, and others flew overhead, the tiny quadcopter flew a pattern around the B-52 under the direction of the Emerging Technologies Combined Test Force.

This inspection was the second in a series of tests to examine the feasibility of using small unmanned aerial systems to perform visual pre- and post-flight inspections of large aircraft. The first was done on a C-17 Globemaster III parked on an out-of-the-way ramp during training day.

Major Will Niblack, the ET-CTF operations officer and sUAS pilot, said there were some added challenges to this second test with the B-52.

“Two significant differences were conducting the aircraft inspection near a main operating taxiway – successfully avoiding being a conflict to other aircraft – and completing this capability (demonstration) while actual exterior maintenance was being done on the aircraft. We avoided being a hindrance to their maintenance operation,” Niblack said.

Edwards2

One of those maintainers, James Rebel, a B-52 crew chief with the 912th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, was working on his aircraft as the sUAS was doing its tests. He said he thought it was a pretty cool concept.

“It only takes about an hour for us to get harnessed up and do an inspection,” Rebel said. “So this may not save us much time yet. But once they get it fine-tuned, I can see its usefulness.” He said it would be especially useful on higher areas, such as the tail, on B-52s and C-17s.

Niblack said this second test was very successful, and the 412th Maintenance group has shown continued interest in developing this capability for future maintenance support.

“We plan to continue working with the (Maintenance Group) to stand up this capability in their respective units,” he said.

He also said the ET CTF is working on future capability demonstrations with the 412th Civil Engineer Group to perform building and roof inspections.

Photos: U.S. Air Force photos by Christian Turner

Source: US Air Force

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