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How one airline is using drone technology to make its service more efficient

While most news reports involving passenger planes and quadcopters concern alarming near-miss incidents, a leading low-cost carrier in Europe is happy to reveal it’s embracing drone technology to help ensure its fleet of aircraft are safe to take to the skies. UK-based easyJet has announced it recently completed a trial in which used camera-equipped quadcopters to inspect its passenger planes.

The drones collected data by buzzing about easyJet aircraft between flights and relaying the high-resolution footage to nearby engineers for analysis. The pre-programmed drones should help the airline save both time and money, as such inspections are usually carried out manually by engineers using large platform positioned around the aircraft.

Related: Another passenger jet reports close encounter with drone

“The tests prove that pre-programmed drones could help reduce the number of hours an aircraft is out of service after events such as lightning strikes compared to manual inspection,” the carrier said in a release, adding that it hopes to make the technology a permanent part of its procedures in the next 12 months.

Related: Watch this ridiculously fast drone zip skyward in half a second

In a further tech-related development, easyJet said it’s experimenting with 3D printing as a speedier solution for replacing aircraft parts inside the cabin such as armrests.

The technology is also being used to create components for its next-generation engines that easyJet currently has on order. The high-bypass turbofan LEAP engine features a number of 3D printed parts, among them fuel nozzles, carbon filter fan blades, and ceramic matrix composites, the carrier said.