Augmented Reality in support to Helicopter Maintenance Activities, the TELL ME results

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1 Augmented Reality in support to Helicopter Maintenance Activities, the TELL ME results Roberto Sanguini FINMECCANICA Helicopter Division - Training and Helicopter Support System Technology Innovation Via Indipendenza 2, Sesto Calende (VA) This paper describes the experience in use of Augmented Reality (AR) as results of the TELL ME (Technology Enhanced Learning Living Lab for Manufacturing Environments) project after the conclusion of the second iteration of the validation done during the third and final year of the project. The project, ended in October 2015, was cofunded by the European Commission under the Seven Framework Programme inside the Objective ICT Technology-enhanced learning (advanced solutions for fast and flexible deployment of learning opportunities at the workplace). This paper discusses the experience in using AR to support helicopter maintenance activities. 1. Introduction The aeronautical industry is a very promising domain for Augmented Reality (AR) applications because is where complex assembly processes and maintenance tasks are experienced and, at the same time, the high standardisation simplifies the standardised access to the material [De Crescenzio e Fantini, 2010] The need of AR is pervasive but especially related to maintenance activities. During maintenance is important to provide to technicians all the support useful to carry out the work in the best way; especially important when the procedures are performed infrequently or are particularly complex [Schwald and De Laval, 2003] [Henderson and Feiner, 2007]. Another important aspect to be considered is that the technicians involved in an aircraft maintenance task are charged with a great responsibility and their work can be considered as very stressful because a maintenance error can have catastrophic consequences. Human errors are one a major cause that can compromise a maintenance activity, from which attention to all systems that can reduce errors due to human factors [De Crescenzio e al, 2011] [Shanmugam e Robert, 2015]. The present paper reports the experience of Company, worldwide leader in rotary wing productions, in using of the AR application developed as a part of DIDAMATICA 2016, ISBN:

2 DIDAMATICA 2016 R&D project TELL ME. The results of the trial are going to evaluate in terms of effectiveness, cost and any constraints by the aviation regulations. The ultimate goal of the experimentation was to verify the adoptability of current solutions, devices and procedure in such a regulated environment as well as the business sustainability of the solution. Results come from an extensive experimentation that involved several people in a simulated but realistic environment. From 1 January 2016, the activities of the Company are merging into the FINMECCANICA and it becomes FINMECCANICA Helicopter Division. 2. Previous experimentation In 2009 the Company decided to carry out a feasibility study developing a prototype of AR system with the aim of experience the state of the state of the art of the technology available at the time (hardware and software) and verify their reliability in a real aeronautical maintenence workplace. The starting point was some applications already existing in aeronautical and, especially, in automotive sectors in which the graphic aspects was emphasized with solutions based on the continuous alignment of 3D virtual word and the associated real world [Persechino e al, 2002] [Henderson e Feiner, 2007] [Langer e Jarosch, 2002]. The developed prototype included a marker-based tracking system using a fixed video camera to detect marker (predetermined black and white pattern) positioned in a known location in the environment, marker-less technology was not precise enough for our scope (see Fig.1). Fig.1 - Marker-based tracking with AR Tag. Due to the fact that wearable devices were not available, real world and superposed virtual information were shown in a laptop PC put in front of the technician. 2

3 Augmented Reality in support to Helicopter Maintenance Activities, the TELL ME results After some trials on the field, this first feasibility study confirmed the effectiveness of the use of AR to support aeronautical maintenance technicians but, at the same time, demonstrated that the technology was not yet so mature to be accepted by workers. Furthermore the process to develop AR was not really sustainable. 3. The TELL ME experience From 2012 to 2015 the Company was involved as an industrial partner in the TELL ME (Technology Enhanced Learning Living Lab for Manufacturing Environments) R&D project. By the TELL ME project the Company had the opportunity to test again the application of AR taking advantages from the new emerging technologies now available such as an application of a marker-less tracking system really efficient and a solution deployable on different mobile devices such as Smartphone, Tablet, Google Glass. The AR applications have been integrated into maintenance work card loaded from IETP repository in the standard format AECMA S1000D. The work card is a step-by-step procedure that provides all the instructions to carry out the task. For each step a AR call button is available to the technician; clicking on it the object recognition is started and, when the item detected, the AR information are showed to the user (see Fig. 2). Fig.2 - Work card shown on Google Glasses. Instruction can be very disparate, from arrows showing which component to interact with, to text providing additional information like the right sequence for detaching object, to the over imposition of a 3D element (see Fig. 3). 3

4 DIDAMATICA 2016 Fig.3 - Augmentation of the User's Field of View. Compared to other applications of AR for maintenance, the one developed in TELL ME is characterized by an essential augmentation (standard icons, simple 3D graphics, no animations) provided only if requested by the technician. For this reason the solution of a continuous tracking to keep aligned overlaid graphics with the real image has not been adopted. The application developed provides for taking a photo from the best user point of view using the mobile device; then the system augments the image with graphic information contextualized to the step of maintenance activity in progress. In this way the calculation power required is smaller for the benefit of autonomy (for example when using Google Glass). The discussion about mobile/wearable devices used provided several results, even unexpected. The best rated solution are Google Glass (that have been abandoned by Google right after the experimentation); the main reason is that they allow to carry a monitor mounted on the head leaving the hands completely free as well as the sight that is 100% as without glasses. Tablets are rated as interesting solution because provides a nice screen at an affordable price and the worker is usually already familiar with it. The negative aspect is correlated to the fact that the tablet cannot put in a pocket so it should be carried manually around in the environment with the possibility to lose it and, to be used during the work, needs to be displaced close to the user in a visible and reachable place that is often not available working on several parts of the helicopter. Smartphones is felt as the best solution for the application of today. Best features are the possibility to carry it in the pocket and use it just when needed, the high duration (in respect to other devices) of the battery, the affordability of the cost. 4

5 Augmented Reality in support to Helicopter Maintenance Activities, the TELL ME results 4. Conclusions and next steps The on the field trial confirmed the strengths already highlighted about the adoption of AR solution in a highly specialised environment as the aeronautic maintenance. The technological advancements in terms of devices, software libraries and human-computer interaction techniques are making the full adoption closer. AR application can really represents an added value for the IETP (Interactive Electronic Technical Publication) that are now available electronically, providing technicians with an additional technical support at the workplace. Of course it is mandatory to cope and maintains the conformance with aeronautic standards, regulation and legislation. Another important aspect that must be considered is the cost. An IETP (one for each helicopter model) covers several hundreds of maintenance tasks each of which might require an AR application. From this point of view a huge step forward is the availability in the near future of sustain-able authoring systems for the development of AR easy to use by non-experts in IT, but experts in maintenance. Bibliography De Crescenzio F., Fantini M., Implementing augmented reality to aircraft maintenance: a. daily inspection case study, Proceeding of IDMME Virtual Concept De Crescenzio F., Fantini M., Persiani F., Di stefano L., Azzari P., Salti S., Augmented Reality for Aircraft Maintenance Training and Operations Support, «IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications», 2011, 31, pp Langer D., Jarosch A., Augmented Reality Maintenance Assistant for the NATO Helicopter NH90. Paper for Ismar Persechino G., De Mizio M., Leoncini P., Esperienze di Realtà Virtuale al Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali (CIRA) le attività svolte nell'ambito della Realtà Aumentata. Convegno MIMOS Schwald B., De Laval B., An Augmented Reality System for Training and Assis-tance to Maintenance in the Industrial Context. Journal of WSCG, Vol.11, No.1., ISSN WSCG 2003, February 3-7, Shanmugam A., Robert T., Human Factors in Training for aircraft maintenance Technicians. Proceedings 19th Triennial Congress of the IEA Henderson S., Feiner S., Augmented Reality for Maintenance and Repair (ARMAR). Air Force Research Laboratory final report June

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