How the RAF could use same technology as astronauts to streamline every day tasks

Senior commanders in the Royal Air Force (RAF) have been shown how the same Industry 4.0 digital technologies that have drastically changed how NASA astronauts perform duties in orbit could transform how the RAF operates and trains its workforce.

The RAF could use augmented reality headsets to streamline every day tasks.
The RAF could use augmented reality headsets to streamline every day tasks.

University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) engineers worked with officers at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire to demonstrate how augmented reality headsets could revolutionise day-to-day maintenance, repair and overhaul by streamlining inspections, providing access to remote expert assistance and rapidly upskilling the workforce.

“This could completely change the way we work,” said Squadron Leader Marcus Ramsden, engineer Officer (AeroSystems) at RAF Leeming.

“Because of its use in gaming, this is technology that new RAF recruits are completely familiar with; we need to grasp it and embody it in our operations.”

Since 2015, Microsoft HoloLens’ have been employed by astronauts on the International Space Station when they need hands-free, remote assistance from NASA scientists on Earth, who are able to see precisely what the astronaut is seeing and advise accordingly.

The same technology could be used to streamline inspections within the RAF, by replacing traditional pen-and-paper checklist work instructions with simple, step-by step holographic instructions displayed in an engineer’s field of view.

Sqn Ldr Ramsden said: “At Factory 2050 we saw mixed reality devices being used to do MRO on a kit car and it set my mind into overload – if it could work on a car, why couldn’t it work on an aircraft?

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James Mitchinson