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It’s an especially exciting time in the aerospace industry with rapidly changing technologies that will be applied to the design, build, integration and testing of new air platforms.
One technology stands out as having many applications across the complete life cycle and that is augmented reality, which looks set to disrupt traditional aerospace and defence industry work in the not too distant future, in much the same way as it is already shaking up other military and consumer applications.
Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR) provides a more immersive experience, by superimposing images onto a user’s real-world situation, which will provide myriad applications for the military.
In the same way as can improve the situational awareness of soldiers through an eyepiece that helps them locate their position, as well as friends and foe, augmented reality will enable a platform such as an aircraft or deployed ground infrastructure, to be scanned then deliver real-time information to support diagnosis, MRO and equipment integration plans and ensure quicker and more efficient through-life support.
Augmented reality will play its part in bringing the development and integration plans to life to enable a far better understanding of the end system at a much earlier stage in its development.
Take complex platform integration. A green aircraft can be brought to life with a spectrum of sensors, equipment and mission systems that enable the user to deliver the required concept of operations into service. This close relationship between the platform integrator and the end user ensures the integration plans being developed are front and centre, to ensure the delivered capability fits the overall system requirements and delivers the optimal capability for the customers’ mission requirements.
That will then give air forces and defence procurement agencies greater and more accurate information before making complex commercial procurement decisions.
Imagine a pilot being able to undertake a simulated mission using a synthetic model to represent the air platform and connected systems, while using AR to bring this to life in the virtual cockpit of an aircraft that hasn’t yet flown. This is the future, optimising the design approach using digital twin and synthetic modelling to bring the system to life in the virtual world before building a physical test aircraft.
The same can apply in MRO applications. We could laser scan a platform when it arrives, superimpose AR, share with relevant team members, across a number of locations, validate the build standard and visualise any modifications, all of which enables better planning of the MRO activity.
It’s a way of seeing what needs to be done and how it can be done, the impact it will all have, before undertaking costly and time-consuming projects.
Maintenance manuals will be located on an AR Cloud to provide a 3D map of the plan that can then be overlaid onto the real platform. It could also help with training of those undertaking the MRO or integration programmes on specific aircraft or to train apprentices, who are quite likely to be using this technology in their everyday working lives in the not too distant future.
The technology exists and is making an impact in other industries, so it’s just a matter of time before we see its application in aerospace and across military projects.