BERLIN (Reuters) - Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) has signed a deal with drone manufacturer DJI as part of fledging plans to exploit the growing market for commercial drones for tasks such as inspecting aircraft surfaces and monitoring wind farms.
The German airline said it plans to offer those interested in using drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in this way a "one-stop UAV-shop" from aircraft operation to data analysis, insurance and even pilot training.
Lufthansa Aerial Services (LAS), part of the company's consulting division, said on Tuesday it will use China-based DJI's aerial platforms and develop applications and technology for potential customers.
For example, it sees potential in operating drones equipped with thermal-imaging systems that can be used to inspect infrastructure such as solar farms, railroad lines, crops and construction sites.
Lufthansa said it had already carried out a pilot project with a wind turbine manufacturer to inspect wind turbine blades using drones, while sister company Lufthansa Technik has used drones to inspect the outer surfaces of aircraft for defects.
EasyJet (EZJ.L) has also used drones to inspect its aircraft, while LAS has also teamed up with airport operator Fraport and German air traffic controllers to test the possibility of using drones to check runways.
Lufthansa runs maintenance and catering divisions alongside its traditional airline business. It said last year it wanted to use its experience in pilot training, flying and maintenance to enter the field of commercial drones.
It will make a decision on whether to fully commit to drone services by the end of the year, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Peter Maushagen; Editing by Tom Heneghan