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Examining The Potential Of VR And AR Tech In MRO

It’s no secret that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology applications are slowly becoming more commonplace across aircraft hangars worldwide, mirroring the increasing prevalence of wearable consumer tech such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift headsets.

With MRO shops more digitalised than ever before, the use of VR and AR applications, commonly employed in the oil & gas sector, appears a natural fit. While technology like the aforementioned Google Glass has been trialled by the maintenance divisions of the likes of Japan Airlines, a bigger wave of VR and AR adoption is anticipated with MROs becoming more tuned in to its benefits.

These include enabling engineers to use the technology for inspection tasks to providing maintenance training for technicians by replicating a location’s setting through a wearable device.

In a new guest blog for MRO-Network.com, Vincent Higgins, CEO and founder of Houston-based Optech4D, one of the companies looking to capitalise on the growing demand for the technology, believes both VR and AR platforms will become a permanent fixture in aviation maintenance.

“What once was seen as “something of the future” is now here to stay,” writes Higgins. “AR and VR technology adoption has increased significantly over the past five years, and exponentially so following the advent of Google Glass and virtual reality gaming technologies.”

On aviation’s willingness to adopt the platforms, Higgins says: “Instead of carrying around an inches-thick manual with instructions and diagrams, today’s technicians can access the same information, complete with 3D models and simulations, from the convenience of their iPad or smartphone.

“They can also hold conversations with senior colleagues while working remotely, enabling them to ask questions, seek confirmation and get a second opinion in minutes, rather than hours or days.”

Like with many new technologies, Higgins feels the future adoption of VR and AR technologies will be driven by the new generation of aircraft engineers comfortable around such devices. However, he warns aviation has entered a crucial period to bridge the knowledge sharing gap between the older workforce and the new.

“Workers with decades of experience are retiring en masse, and the industry cannot afford to lose their legacy knowledge and experience,” says Higgins. “Having grown up digitally savvy and always connected, the millennial workforce is extremely comfortable with AR and VR solutions, so companies must act now in order to facilitate knowledge sharing before it’s too late.”

Given aviation’s penchant to look for the next big thing, characterised by an explosion of projects around data and the growing adoption of sophisticated robotics, industry’s utilisation of VR and AR devices will prove fascinating.

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