JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.- —
Obscured amongst the colossal, soaring hangars on the Lakehurst-side of base stands a small—but vital—laboratory.
The inside of the lab is completely illuminated by bright, florescent lights, filled with engineers in long, crisp, white lab coats.
Filling the room, tidy work benches covered in high-end equipment, wires and innovative technology, are the starting point for countless ground-breaking projects that are being developed to advance naval aviation.
The Integrated Diagnostics and Automated Test Systems Laboratory tests and creates equipment that progresses avionics diagnostics in the Navy and the Marine Corps as well as conducts cutting edge research to improve those techniques.
“What we do here is develop automatic test equipment for the flight line which is used to diagnose electronic boxes before the box is removed from the aircraft,” said Russell A. Shannon, IDATS lead systems engineer. “We also do basic research for new diagnostic methods, and serve as subject matter experts for testability and supportability in the Navy and the Marine Corps.”
The lab buzzes with the hum of machines and intense concentration as IDATS team members work methodically; testing older aviation equipment and creating new and improved ways to test that equipment to get the aircraft up and running more efficiently.
“We design devices completely and organically here in the lab,” said Shannon. “That is one of our major functions; building something from scratch up to a functional prototype.”
When the engine light comes on in your car, you take your car to the mechanic, just to find out that there was never any issue, said Shannon. IDATS has that very similar situation happen with a lot of helicopters and fighter jets.
“The Sailor or Marine is tasked to repair an aircraft and the aircraft might say that two or three boxes have failed,” said Shannon. “They will remove those boxes and send them down to the next level of maintenance and at that next level of maintenance they will find that two of the three boxes that they sent haven’t failed at all so it costs the taxpayer money to remove good boxes from the aircraft.”
IDATS’ main goal is to look at these older aviation boxes that are causing false check engine lights and to find out how to make a smaller and more up-to-date version of the equipment that tests them so that the front-line maintainer doesn’t have to remove the box initially.
Their research and development of the enhanced processes and equipment will not only save time and money, but it also means the aircraft will spend less time in maintenance and more time completing the mission.
IDATS hosts an annual open house at their facility on the Lakehurst-side to showcase to Department of Defense officials what it is they do, while highlighting the projects and products they are currently developing as well as their progress with ongoing research efforts.
“Normally we have seven or eight projects going, but this year is unique because we have just four big projects,” said Shannon. “At the open house they are going to see development of [all four projects.]”
The attendees had the opportunity to see four technology demonstrations and talk with the team who explained the technology, development and the intended path forward for the four projects.
Overall, with their developing of prototypes and conducting cutting-edge research IDATS serves many integral roles in the progress of a more efficient fleet.
“The most important thing is that we are actually delivering products that are going to help the fleet,” said Mark Weber avionics support equipment engineer and member of the IDATS leadership team. “That is really our end objective, that at the end of the day we want to get diagnostics tools and techniques to the fleet so that they can do their job better.”