Air Force explores virtual reality with Microsoft HoloLens

Monday, 31 August, 2020

Air Force explores virtual reality with Microsoft HoloLens

The RAAF Base Amberley commenced a trial in July 2020 to open communication and new working practices with its US-based counterpart. Aircraft technicians at No. 36 Squadron are now using Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality devices with Boeing-developed software to maintain C-17A III aircraft. Normally, Boeing specialist technicians travel to Australia to assist with repair and replacement for certain C-17A maintenance tasks; however, COVID-19 restrictions have prohibited international visits.

Maintenance team supervisor Sergeant Thomas Lane said RAMS (the recovery and modifications services team) could send technical drawings and documents, provide instant feedback and direct the overall task through the virtual space, while technicians wear the devices. Using a secure ‘cloud’ connection, Sergeant Lane’s team and the technicians in the US can collaborate by sharing screens to see exactly what they are seeing inside the aircraft through iris tracking.

“The first project was to replace the floatation equipment deployment systems panels inside C-17s, which consist of explosive components that deploy life rafts in an emergency. This technology is a massive benefit to resourcing the workforce moving forward, with significant potential to empower and train less-experienced technicians,” said Sergeant Lane.

Boeing C-17A Field Services Manager Glen Schneider said this new capability would see the devices used to eliminate future travel and create time efficiencies. According to Schneider, the new capability enables technicians to connect with the Boeing field engineering team while they are away on a domestic or international missing, helping to troubleshoot any unique maintenance issues they encounter.

“After the initial maintenance activity, No. 36 Squadron will continue the trial with two HoloLens devices that can be used by accompanied maintenance teams,” said Schneider.

Image ©Commonwealth of Australia

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