Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are proving to be game-changers in the aerospace industry, including the aeronautical and aviation sectors. There are numerous benefits to the digitalization of this industry, and AR is one of the latest technological advancements that offer innovative solutions in all sectors. Recently there has been an increase in military investment in this technology, although commercial aviation operations are also utilizing it.
AR system’s uses range from streamlining day-to-day operations to providing employees with a more realistic training experience. AR technology also allows companies and contractors to avoid costly mistakes, injuries, and fatalities due to human error. Unless companies choose to embrace immersive technology, they run the risk of being outpaced by competitors who utilize these revolutionary offerings to provide greater value to their clients.
How Augmented Reality Is Completely Transforming Aerospace
Even in a complex industry such as aerospace, human error can cause significant financial and physical damage to manufacturing, training, and maintenance efforts. For example, in a report by MDPI, improper or ineffective maintenance was found to have contributed to nearly 12% of aviation accidents.
A model of how AR technology can provide a solution is found in products such as Fountx. Developed by Australian engine maintenance, repair, and overhaul company TAE, this AR device enables industry experts to guide field technicians through repairs and troubleshoot unexpected problems, no matter their location.
In addition, real-time support from remote specialists can prevent technicians from being forced to handle an issue that is beyond their skill level and could save lives by providing a professional perspective to dangerous situations. Another example is Boeing Inc., a major aviation manufacturer that has implemented the use of AR glasses for workers to assist them with aircraft manufacturing and maintenance.
AR Trends: Aerospace and Defense
Automation isn’t yet fully embraced for the maintenance and manufacturing aspects of the aviation sector, mainly because of the potential risks associated with an entirely digital outfit. However, the integration of augmented reality technology and human labor creates the ideal blend of digital enhancements and human touch necessary to revolutionize the manufacturing and maintenance processes.
VR devices allow manufacturers to save money by increasing employee efficiency, minimizing human error and streamlining product development. Some applications that are already proving successful include the drone-based solution created by Donecle, which can complete the inspection of an aircraft ten times fast than traditional and hybrid inspections.
When robotics, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality combine, the possibilities are endless. Exploratory military operations can be completed using a drone to collect information about an area. Once data has been collected, the information can be sent to the handler and used to craft a 3D recreation of the terrain.
Development and Design
The aerospace and defense industries have found using augmented reality technology to be beneficial in the early development stage of platforms. Prototyping is expedited for new equipment, allowing development to occur much more quickly than it would without AR technology.
Existing technical issues can also be understood and addressed using minimal time and resources when engineers can approach problems with AR devices. NASA has even implemented AR technology developed by Lockheed Martin to improve efficiency during the construction of the Orion.
Improved Training Offerings
Aircraft Inspection Training
Both defense and commercial sectors can allow their ground handlers to get hands-on experience performing aircraft inspections even if the actual aircraft they are inspecting isn’t present. AR headsets enable teams to engage with virtual versions of aircraft and complete visual inspections.
Allowing handlers to participate in a more realistic learning experience increases their ability to identify risks and issues. Additionally, a strong understanding of the various aspects of aircraft inspection can reduce the risk of failure during operation due to an overlooked mechanical issue.
Flight Deck Training
Pilots, co-pilots, and flight deck crew members must be able to act without hesitation in an emergency. However, until the implementation of AR/VR, there was no safe or practical hands-on way to teach pilots to recognize and react appropriately to emergencies. VR task trainers don’t only familiarize the flight deck crew with the cockpit, but they also allow them to learn how to respond in a crisis.
This training mimics challenges they may encounter so closely that it enables crew members to condition themselves to react to situations appropriately and minimize the risk of forgetting their training when placed under stress. Head-mounted displays allow pilots to gain experience using cockpit controls and complete simulations that model possible flying conditions. The skills provided by AR training could make the difference between a disaster and a safe landing.
Aircraft Maintenance and MRO Training
AR technology provides a straightforward way for maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) technicians to explore the various components of any aircraft without ever stepping foot in a hanger. Mechanics can also investigate the innermost workings of any part of an aircraft and familiarize themselves with dozens of aircraft intricacies without having to have each type of aircraft physically present.
This training simulation provides a more comprehensive education for MRO technicians and mechanics. It can also significantly decrease the expense associated with training employees for these positions.
Cabin Crew Training
Commercial aviation companies have discovered that AR/VR training can be used to educate more than flight deck crew, ground handlers, and technicians. Since passenger comfort isn’t the only focus of cabin crew, and they are also responsible for maintaining a safe cabin throughout the flight, ensuring they receive thorough training is essential. The crew must ensure that equipment such as extinguishers, flashlights, and life vests are accounted for and operational.
Throughout the flight, they are also tasked with monitoring passengers for suspicious behavior and looking for any signs of impending danger, such as smoke or abnormal mechanical noises. In addition to these responsibilities, cabin crew must educate passengers on safety protocol and how to behave in an emergency. AR systems work more effectively than classroom training to teach crewmembers how to respond in high-stakes situations such as hijackings.
AR: The Technology
AR technology relies on cutting-edge software to benefit the user. 3D software can create a virtual world where the user can interact with whichever immersive experience has been made. AR software can range from highly sophisticated programs that utilize gesture detection and markerless tracking, or more basic programs that allow the user to act as a spectator rather than a participant.
Despite the small size of AR headsets, there are numerous components tucked inside the user-friendly unit. These devices consist of an input method, such as a camera or webcam, high-speed processors, sensors, and the display, which is usually a handheld device, AR glasses, or a head-mounted display.
The sensors used in AR devices often include infrared sensors, gyroscopes, and accelerometers; all of these sensors serve the purpose of transmitting the user’s behaviors to the processing system. AR devices require significant amounts of processing power for appropriate functioning and contain Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPU, GPS, RAM, CPU, and flash memory elements.
In order to maintain a database of virtual images, AR devices require a connection to a remote or cloud-based server. Images are stored remotely until an AR program requests a picture. Once a picture has been requested, the server retrieves the desired item from the primary server’s database and provides it to the program that asked for the image.
Plan for the Future
While you may understand the need for increased digital solutions in your business, that doesn’t mean implementing them will be easy. In fact, for many business owners, focusing their efforts on determining the best ways to utilize AR and VR technology in their business isn’t the best use of their time.
Instead of devoting time and energy to a task that may feel frustrating or overwhelming, outsourcing their company’s digital transformation to SAAB RDS will enable them to use contemporary technology in their businesses without struggling to implement it themselves. The advantages associated with using AR technology are too numerous to ignore and continuously increasing.
Don’t let competitors gain the upper hand by choosing to overlook the benefits offered by augmented reality technology. AR solutions are a cost-effective way to solve various problems in the aerospace industry, from productivity to training difficulties to maintenance challenges. Let our team design a digital transformation plan that puts the most current AR technology to work for you. Contact SAAB RDS today.