Aircraft inspecting drones not far off say Easyjet

The unmanned flying machines will help engineers to maintain the airliner's 220-strong aircraft fleet.

It might seem like something you'd expect to see on a Star Wars movie, small drones flying in and around aircraft, testing for faults and maintenance issues. But Easyjet claim to be less than a year away from launching such technology.

The airliners is planning to use the drones to scan and assess every single Easyjet airplane, and then report the findings back to the engineers, who can then proceed to fix the problems.

A team of experts including some from the University of Bristol has been developing the new technology, and Easyjet says it's only a few months away from its first test.

Dr Arthur Richards is head of aerial robotics and UoB, he told the BBC: "Aircraft inspection is a great application for drones."

"Coupled with smart navigation and computer vision, they can get accurate data from really awkward places."

Easyjet is also working hard to create "paperless aircraft" by installing Sony tablet computers into the cockpit of every airplane by the end of the month.

The company say this will help dramatically to cut down on the amount of paperwork crew members have to do, and will save them around $20,000 (£11,800) in fuel costs as heavy logbook will now be stored on the hard-drives of the tablet computer.

Easyjet's 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."

Drone technology has drawn much interest from a number of firms over the past few years. The most recent example is Amazon testing a drone delivery service called Octocopters. According to Amazon they will be capable of delivery good right to the consumer's door.