07/05/2014 09:04 BST | Updated 07/05/2014 09:59 BST

EasyJet Is Switching To Drones (To Inspect Its Aircraft)

EasyJet is switching to drones.

But don't worry - they're not ditching their pilots just yet. They're actually just using the craft to inspect their planes.

EasyJet hopes to introduce the drones as early as next year following trials in the next few months.

The drones will be programmed to scan and assess the carrier's fleet of Airbus A319 and A320 planes, reporting back to engineers on any damage which may require further inspection or maintenance work.

EasyJet is working with the Coptercraft and Measurement Solutions companies as well as Bristol Robotics Laboratory on modifying existing technology so it can bring in the drones.

EasyJet's engineering head Ian Davies said: "Drone technology could be used extremely effectively to help us perform aircraft checks.

"Checks that would usually take more than a day could be performed in a couple of hours and potentially with greater accuracy."

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Dr Arthur Richards, head of aerial robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a partnership between the University of Bristol and the University of West England, said: "Aircraft inspection is a great application for drones. Coupled with smart navigation and computer vision, they can get accurate data from really awkward places.

"We look forward to working with easyJet to develop safe, effective and efficient drone systems for this challenge."

EasyJet also announced today that it was looking at deploying new technology to enable a remote engineering team to see exactly what a pilot or engineer is seeing using virtual reality glasses.

The glasses use the world's first high definition see-through display system, providing augmented reality to help easyJet remotely diagnose a technical issue.

This technology will be especially useful in some of the airline's more remote airports across its network. The airline currently flies to 138 airports with some as far away as the Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt and Tel Aviv in Israel.

In addition, the carrier is bringing in special apps designed to aid engineers and pilots in key tasks and is also making its flights paperless.

EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall said: "We have examined and assessed cutting edge technology across many different industries and are now applying a range of new technologies to the aviation sector for the first time to help us run our fleet of aircraft more effectively, efficiently and safely."