Augmented and virtual reality seem to have existed as buzzwords in lots of industries over recent years—but real-life business use cases have been relatively slow to emerge. Sure, they have proved popular for gamers across the world, but the technology has now taken a step out of the living room and onto the tarmac in aerospace & defense maintenance.
Big aerospace & defense names are actually starting to implement augmented or virtual reality technology.
Here are just a few recent examples:
- Pratt & Whitney – In 2017 Pratt & Whitney’s customer training division announced a partnership with United Technologies Research to invest in virtual reality engine maintenance training for airline mechanics.
- Air France – Trialled ‘immersive reality’ headsets in 2D and 3D for passenger entertainment, transporting them away from the cabin and into their own world mid-flight.
- Air New Zealand – Collaborated with Dimension Data to give cabin crew a heads-up display on a Microsoft Hololens headset with passenger information such as flight details, time since last served and even their emotional state.
IFS takes note and takes action
These are three good examples, because they each demonstrate different A&D stakeholders who directly benefit from each application of the technology – maintenance technicians, passengers and crew. The experiences of these users will dictate whether augmented reality continues to take off in commercial aviation.
IFS has and has taken a number of key steps in its solution delivery to help its customers take advantage.
Asset data in front of your eyes
In July 2017, IFS Labs announced an integration between IFS Applications and Microsoft HoloLens that enables service engineers to see holographic IFS software data on the VR headset screen. This information is plotted— virtually—on to the asset they are servicing.
The data is displayed directly in front of the engineer’s eyes, enabling technicians to use both hands when servicing the asset. By displaying information as a real-time overlay, engineers get immediate access to relevant asset-specific data such as service history, performance analysis, and temperature levels.
Industry expertise on hand
In Q2 2018, IFS Labs, in collaboration with Fountx and its Australian parent company TAE Aerospace, developed a proof-of-concept to allow one-to-many knowledge transfer via augmented reality to change the way that companies maintain complex assets. Unlike wearable consumer technology, Fountx is purpose-built for complex industrial environments, preserving the spatial awareness users need to work safely.
It comes in two parts: an operator station, comprising a lightweight near-eye headset and wearable computer; and a touch screen expert station used at maintenance HQ. These allow technicians to perform complex maintenance with an expert looking over their shoulder—virtually. Check out Fountx General Manager Laurance Beraldo demonstrating the solution to MRO Network at the 2018 IFS World Conference.
Bridging the defense skills gap
In the defense industry, the demand for maintenance is rapidly outpacing supply. In a 2014 report, the UK Military Aviation Authority (MAA) reported that the RAF was missing 411 tradesmen for aircraft maintenance – a 12% shortfall in the number of trained engineers the MOD required. Assisted, augmented and virtual reality can bridge this gap.
Another example would be from IFS technology partner XMReality. The XMReality team have developed a military version of an augmented reality solution for the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration (FMV), because of the increased efficiency the technology offered organizations in other industries. Wearing smart glasses, the field technicians are able to see a real-time and interactive demonstration of the repair right in front of their eyes. These in-demand skills can be leveraged anywhere, anytime with the capability of modern mobile technology to get an internet connection even in remote areas.
The best augmented reality programs in A&D have a direct effect on the end user experience, bringing increased efficiency, on-hand support and contextual information into daily operations.
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