Lufthansa to use drones, but not for cargo

DJI DroneIt’s no surprise anymore when another carrier or logistics firm decides to experiment with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones. DHL and Swiss WorldCargo are both preparing to test quad-copters with an actual payload in the next couple of months. Now, Lufthansa, is teaming up with China’s DJI Technology, the world’s largest consumer drone company by revenue, but not in a way one might expect.

Instead of testing parcel deliveries, this partnership is working toward the development of a drone that could be used for inspecting aircraft surfaces for damage, or for detecting ground features, such as power lines, roads, railways and above-ground pipelines. Lufthansa’s subsidiary, Lufthansa Aerial Services, said it plans to use DJI drones and software to monitor customers’ infrastructure. Equipped with thermal imaging sensors, these commercial drones can perform inspections quickly and accurately, the carrier said.

According to NASDAQ, funding for venture-backed drone companies last year was roughly US$855 million in the United States, China, Europe and Israel – about nine times more than the $94 million spent in 2014. DJI raised the lion’s share of the 2015 figure, securing $575 million in two rounds of venture funding. DJI holds a 70 percent share of the drone market.

Lufthansa Aerial Services has also teamed up with Frankfurt airport operator, Fraport, and German air traffic controllers to test the possibility of using drones to check the condition of runways, said German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Lufthansa also said it will make a decision whether or not to fully commit to drone services before the end of the year.

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