United States aerospace firm Boeing has begun conducting field testing to repair its aircraft with augmented reality (AR) technologies, its Australian branch announced on Thursday last week.
According to the news, Boeing leveraged its Augmented Training Operations Maintenance (ATOM) solution in a major test run for the US Air Force (USAF)’s Air Mobility Command.
The military organisation’s Mobility Guardian 2023 exercise took place in July. USAF engineers used Microsoft’s mixed reality headset, the HoloLens 2, to conduct the field test.
How do we help deployed forces stay mission ready?
We field tested augmented reality maintenance technology for the first time at #MG23 to demonstrate how it reduces aircraft downtime and transforms flying operations.
— Boeing Australia (@BoeingAustralia) August 24, 2023
Additional servicepeople, including a Boeing Australia Field Service Representative (FSR) from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base Amberley, Queensland. Both experts offered remote guidance to repair a C-17 Globemaster III fault with the aircraft’s thrust reverser.
RAAF servicepeople shared the information, manuals, and walkthroughs with the USAF engineer located 1,400 kilometres north of the military base, in Townsville.
The ATOM trial also saw Boeing C-17 FSRs, engineers, and others back USAF and RAAF personnel with maintenance walkthroughs in Townsville and Cairns.
The company explained that the exercise is a first for Boeing Australia to provide remote guidance for global C-17 customers in a military setting.
Lisa Sheridan, International Field Services and Training Systems Programme Manager, Boeing Defence Australia, said in a statement,
“Ordinarily, when a C-17 is away from a main operating base, operators don’t have access to Boeing specialist maintenance crews, grounding the aircraft for days longer than required. ATOM can operate in areas of limited or poor network coverage and could significantly reduce aircraft downtime by quickly and easily connecting operators with Boeing experts anywhere in the world, who can safely guide them through complex maintenance tasks”
Airbus Supports Cabin Development with XR
Boeing has recently begun leveraging immersive technologies to assist its engineers and servicers. However, Airbus—the world’s second-largest aerospace firm—has also begun tapping mixed reality (MR) solutions.
The European planemaker began implementing MR technologies to design passenger cabins for future aircraft models. These will offer engineers safety, security, and qualitative improvements for the company’s research and development (R&D) workflows, reducing lead times.
Airbus will also tap augmented reality (AR) smart glasses, MR headsets, and other immersive kits to empower technicians, engineers, and other key workers.
The enterprise hopes to reduce production times, enhance safety, and digitise processes for its global operations after the COVID-19 pandemic and Boeing crisis in 2021, leading to a surge in production constraints and demand for Airbus.
Airbus noted at the time,
“The emergence of augmented reality solutions and equipment that give operators and engineers a more advanced, hands-free experience directly in their workplace has only accelerated the pace”
Several technologies include the use of Unity’s industrial metaverse tools. These have led to a massive expansion of use cases, proof of concept (PoC), and maintenance and operations (M&O) improvements.
Red 6-Lockheed-KAI Partnership
Additionally, Red 6, a major provider of AR-based training solutions, struck a strategic partnership in June with Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries.
The three firms will build a framework for implementing Red 6’s Advanced Tactical Augmented Reality System (ATARS) in the joint venture. Lockheed planes such as the T-50 will receive enhancements with Prepar3D software simulator suite to support training programmes for the fighter jet.
Using the augmented solutions, fighter pilots can engage in synthetic trainers complete with dogfight simulations, scalable exercises, and others to quickly build skills for military staff.
Also, Saudi Arabia’s Air Force has received Red 6’s solution to empower its fighters with next-generation immersive trainer technologies.