Innovating in Support of RAAF C-17s: Leveraging Virtual Reality Systems


In an article published on August 31, 2020 by Flight Lieutenant Clarice Hurren, a recent innovation driven by a need to overcome a COVID-19 induced barrier was highlighted.

Aircraft technicians at No. 36 Squadron are now using Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality devices with Boeing-developed software to maintain C-17A Globemaster III aircraft. 

The trial started at RAAF Base Amberley in July to open communication and new working practices with their U.S-based counterparts. 

Normally, Boeing specialist technicians – known as the recovery and modifications services team or RAMS – travel to Australia to assist with repair and replacement for certain C-17A maintenance tasks, but because of COVID-19 restrictions they have been unable to visit.

Maintenance team supervisor Sergeant Thomas Lane said RAMS could send technical drawings and documents, provide instant feedback and direct the overall task through the virtual space while technicians wear the devices. 

“Through a secure ‘cloud’ connection, my team and the technicians in the U.S can work seamlessly together by sharing screens and see exactly what they are seeing inside the aircraft through iris tracking,” Sergeant Lane said.

“The first project was to replace the floatation equipment deployment systems panels inside C-17s, which consist of explosive components that deploy life rafts in an emergency.

“This technology is a massive benefit to resourcing the workforce moving forward, with significant potential to empower and train less-experienced technicians.” 

Boeing C-17A field services manager Glen Schneider said this new capability would see the devices used to eliminate future travel and create time efficiencies. 

“After the initial maintenance activity, No. 36 Squadron will continue the trial with two HoloLens devices that can be used by accompanied maintenance teams,” Mr Schneider said. 

“Technicians can connect with the Boeing field engineering team while they are away on a domestic or international mission and will aid them to troubleshoot any unique maintenance issues they encounter.”