Augmented Reality connects engineers with aircraft maintainers

By Allison Murawski | Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst | Nov. 2, 2018

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, NJ —

Augmented Reality connects engineers with aircraft maintainers

By Allison Murawski, NAWCAD Lakehurst Public Affairs

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - A team of engineers and a logistician from the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst are using augmented reality to connect subject matter experts (SME) with aircraft and Support Equipment (SE) maintainers in the fleet, potentially saving time and money.

Team Collaborative Augmented Reality Maintenance Assistant (CARMA) conducted research, development and testing through the six-month NAWCAD Innovation Challenge to create a working prototype that would allow SMEs to assist maintainers with troubleshooting virtually.

“Using augmented reality tools we can place a subject matter expert right with the maintainer doing repairs or whatever a maintainer needs help with fleet side, base side, wherever they need it,” said Connor Hagerty, CARMA team lead. “The expert will be able to see everything the maintainer sees and mark it up with drawings, with pictures, whatever they need to do to help the maintainer make the repair.”

This virtual interaction would reduce the costs of SMEs traveling to maintainer’s locations to assist with complicated repairs, and speed up the repair time, said Michael Confessore, System Architecture and Graphical User Interface designer for CARMA.

“Even beyond that cost and time savings, a lot of times if systems go down they have to wait for the subject matter expert to get there, so there’s a cascading effect where you can’t use this piece of equipment, so you can’t repair this engine, so now that plane can’t fly. So getting these repairs done much quicker brings speed to the fleet,” said Confessore.

Over the course of the challenge, the team at Lakehurst worked to successfully bridge communication between an Augmented Reality headset (that the maintainer would wear) and a tablet or similar device the SME could use to see what the maintainer sees.

“CARMA is completely agnostic of system. It has a very universal appeal that regardless of what you’re using, if you need subject matter input from anybody, they can be there instantly,” said Hagerty.

Feedback from maintainers was an important part of the development process, said Ric-Rey Vergara, data transfer and networking lead for CARMA.

“Through brainstorming with maintainers we got a better idea of how they would use it day to day on maintenance operations,” said Robert Samuel, augmented reality developer for CARMA. “For the maintainers feedback so far, it’s all been positive.”

In a first for the Innovation Challenge, Team CARMA incorporated logistics into the development process from the start, including supply support, training and technical data elements. This included the creation of a Logistics Analysis Report, Operational User’s Manual and software documents, said Lauren Rowek, logistics lead for CARMA.

“Planning for logistics support early on in the CARMA’s development enhanced insight to future sustainment and supportability processes that will be applied to CARMA,” said Rowek. “Logistics plays an important role in the lifecycle support of a system, as logistics planning provides a better look ahead to what elements CARMA will require once it reaches the acquisition phases,” said Rowek.

The NAWCAD Lakehurst team worked together, and with guidance from teammate Didier Lessage at Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWC-TSD) in Orlando, to establish a working prototype of CARMA.

The prototype was successfully demoed with Air Force maintainers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

“Initiatives like the Innovation Challenge allow our personnel the freedom to find new ways to support our Sailors and Marines,” said Kathleen P. Donnelly, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) SE and Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment (ALRE) Department director. “I commend Team CARMA for a job well done and am excited to see what comes next with this innovative use of digital tools to bring speed to the fleet.”

The team plans to continue development of CARMA through a Naval Innovation Science and Engineering (NISE) program proposal and pursue other adaptations of augmented and virtual reality to support the fleet, said Michael Donovan, virtual reality developer for CARMA.

“I really enjoyed the team atmosphere and being able to work on something that’s innovative and new to the Navy, and showing that it’s got merit and a place to help the fleet,” said Donovan.