Drones used for rapid transport of parts at aircraft seats maker
One of the world's leading manufacturers of aircraft seats is using drones to keep its production line running.
Collins Aerospace transports spare parts from its storage centre a couple of fields away when it would take too long to travel by road. Every minute that the production line in Kilkeel, Co Down, is delayed equates to a £100 loss.
Design engineer David Stevenson said: "It takes 90 seconds to drop a part, stopping the loss of £100 a minute - this was the right thing for us to do."
Collins has built a new storage facility for its parts which is almost two kilometres away by road.
The land route involves several junctions and can be congested at times with parents on the school run.
Mr Stevenson said it was critically important spare parts could be quickly delivered to keep the production line operating, with one seat made every seven minutes. He said the next step would be to carry larger quantities.
"We maybe want to start getting our full parts by drone or have multiple drones flown by a single operator," Mr Stevenson added.
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The engineer disclosed plans for an autonomous system which delivered on request and could be implemented across the multinational company.
Drones have their limitations and doubts have been expressed that they could become commercially viable for all deliveries.
Coping with bad weather and battery power are key challenges facing drone manufacturers.
Ian Kiely, chief executive of Drone Consultants Ireland, predicted that by 2025 passenger drones would be rolled out more widely, most likely run using a new raft of satellites.
A conference at the Innovation Factory in Belfast discussed the benefits of drone technology, from tracking the progress of forest fires to screening crops for moisture levels.
They can also be used to deliver life-saving equipment to people stranded at sea.
Collins' standards director James Dunthorne said drones had received a bad press and suggested that may be linked to their historical links to the military.