Manual Versus Robotic Aircraft Cleaning and its effects on the aircraft’s aerodynamics
Anyone who flies commercially on a regular basis has likely seen a pre-inspection take place prior to take-off or noticed a plan grounded for cleaning. The cleaning process is extremely important because it helps make any defects such as a missing bolt more noticeable during the inspection process. In addition, there is some debate on whether regular cleaning of aircraft can help reduce operating costs and improve fuel costs. All of these things impact the final question of whether manual or robotic aircraft cleaning systems are more effective. With that in mind, let’s take a minute to break it down.
Improved Safety With Regular Cleaning
One of the main reasons that commercial aircraft are cleaned on a routine basis is because it enhances their safety. Depending on the regular flight destinations some aircraft will collect more dirt, bugs, and general debris than others. Levels of air pollution and general air debris vary based on the flight path so there is not a set timeline that dictates how often a plane should be cleaned, but most airlines have their own policies. With all of that in mind, cleaning is still important to ensure that the plane operates at acceptable levels.
Does Aircraft Cleaning Reduce Operating Costs?
The biggest debate surrounding aircraft cleaning is whether or not it helps to reduce operating costs. Airlines and flight companies pay close attention to the bottom line, and the same is true of any sector of the aviation sector following safety concerns. There are some studies that suggest that regular cleaning of planes can help reduce fuselage costs by as much as .5% for a variety of reasons.
For instance, in areas where mosquitoes are common insect detritus often build up on the exterior of planes including along the wings. Over time this build-up can actually force a plane to use greater thrust which will result in higher fuel consumption that can add up for planes that fly multiple times per day and dozens of times per week.
Expenses of Robotic Cleaning Vs. Manual Cleaning
Over the last few years, the question of robotic aircraft cleaning has come into play as technology has improved and created the option. Robotic cleaning has been shown to reduce the time aircraft require for cleaning which can help reduce the overall time that aircraft are grounded which conversely may improve the bottom line. At the same time, since aircraft can be cleaned in ⅔ the time, it can improve the scheduling of aircraft cleaning, therefore, improving overall fuel costs if clean aircraft is actually more aerodynamic. Therefore, robotic cleaning is a technology that aircraft operators would be wise to look into.
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