AkzoNobel Funds Drone Inspection Startup


Global coatings company AkzoNobel’s Aerospace Coatings segment has announced that it has acquired a stake in aircraft maintenance and inspection company Donecle, for the use of its drone inspection technology.

According to AkzoNobel’s release, Donecle’s drone technology for aircraft inspections is important to the company’s Aerofleet Coatings Management service, helping airline operators tweak their aerospace coatings replacement and maintenance schedules for individual aircrafts. 

About the Tech

The release adds that Donecle’s technology was originally created to increase the efficiency of aircraft general visual inspections, including the detection and identification of lightning strikes.

Now, it has reportedly been developed to detect paint flaws, scratches and other coatings issues such as rivet rash. The findings are reportedly studied to find the status of the coating, as well as whether and when a new coating is required.

Donecle’s drones reportedly fly in a set grid over the plane's surface, taking up to 1,000 HD photos. Then photos are then reportedly run through Donecle’s bespoke machine learning algorithm, based on a two-stage Deep Neural Network, to find issues on a surface.

AkzoNobel states that the drones can reach parts of an aircraft quicker than a person can, while additional patented laser positioning technology makes the flights fully automated. Navigation sensors also reportedly enable the drone to fly and land safely.

“We have already been collaborating to develop the new Aerofleet Coatings Management service and will be working closely with their teams in evolving this and other services to help keep our aerospace customers one step ahead of the competition,” said Matthieu Claybrough, CEO of Donecle.

Another release from Donecle states that the €5.6 million (about $5.8 million), provided by AkzoNobel and one other investor for the partnership, will help with the expansion of Donecle’s marketing activities and growth in production rates. The money received will also reportedly help speed up ongoing qualification programs with aircraft manufacturers.  

“We are very pleased to announce the completion of this funding round, which testifies to the trust that our customers, partners and investors all place in us,” said Claybrough.

“We’re also thrilled to be able to count on players who share our vision and are working with us to make it a reality. By investing in our future, AkzoNobel is helping us ramp up our inspection capabilities and scale them in their respective markets.”

Donecle states that it expects the funding to aid in extending its scope to include new developments like artificial intelligence for automatic detection and classification and the Iris dentCHECK for 3D measurement for different types of damage.

“It matches our commitment to developing new and ever more innovative services and solutions that help our aerospace customers to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and support a significantly more sustainable operation,” said Patrick Bourguignon, BU Director, AkzoNobel Automotive & Specialty Coatings.

Akzo Aerofleet Coatings Management

In March, AkzoNobel Aerospace Coatings announced its plan to launch a new digital, data-driven service for airlines and other large operators to tailor and optimize the coatings maintenance schedules for aircraft.

The data reportedly includes details of the coatings used and flight data, which can affect the integrity and longevity of the coating applied.

AkzoNobel said that the app is suited for fleets with more than 100 aircraft. It can collect information, such as dry-film thickness, color variation, gloss and general appearance, to store in an audit report on an iPad or tablet. The data is then fed back to a database to track the fleet's performance over time. 

AkzoNobel explained that external coatings have evolved in the last decade from single stage to basecoat/clearcoat systems, extending the need to repaint some aircraft for up to 10 years or even more. However, aircraft still need to be taken out of service for maintenance every six or seven years without really knowing if a repaint is needed, according to the company.

The company reports that manual inspections can be enhanced by automated inspections conducted by the drones, which reportedly helped reportedly standardize the inspection and is less subjective. Additionally, a drone can scan an entire narrowbody aircraft in less than an hour, providing a faster and more in-depth inspection compared to manual methods.

Aerofleet Coatings Management was launched as part of a range of support and training services through AkzoNobel Aerospace Business Solutions. The service was introduced at the MRO Americas event in Atlanta.


Tagged categories: Aerospace; AkzoNobel; Asia Pacific; Business matters; Business operations; Coating inspection; Coating Materials; Coatings; Coatings Technology; drone; Drones; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Inspection; Latin America; NA; North America; Partnerships; Program/Project Management; Quality control; Quality Control; Research and development; Technology; Tools & Equipment

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