Today’s military forces are increasingly turning to innovative digital solutions to manage their assets more effectively. As armed forces continue to expand in the coming years, the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) industry needs to quickly figure out how to meet the growing demand for efficient maintenance and service. Readiness and recovery efforts have taken a hit as longer asset lifecycles, complex hardware, and inexperienced technicians have led to dramatic maintenance backlogs that are slowing the pace of military operations.
Augmented reality (AR) is helping military forces evolve MRO by superimposing digital data, like step-by-step service instructions, into a user's real-world view—so they can visually identify service needs in 3D. AR allows even the most novice service technicians to quickly identify, assess, and respond to damaged, malfunctioning, or inoperable assets—while providing a series of guided instructions that help them successfully perform the required service tasks. For military forces struggling with asset readiness, AR offers three distinct advantages.
The adoption of digital technologies is driving innovation throughout the lifecycle of military assets. Smart, connected assets are providing military forces with a wealth of IoT data that is transforming how they’re designed, manufactured, and deployed. But when it comes to service and maintenance, technicians still rely on printed technical documentation and service manuals that are often inaccurate or difficult to understand.
AR enhances how military forces create, operate, and maintain their complex assets, extending the digital thread all the way through to service and maintenance. By using AR in conjunction with existing CAD data, military forces can visualize and maintain MRO information more efficiently, resulting in a faster, more agile workforce.
Military assets are only as valuable as their ability to be deployed to their respective operating environments. For example, an aircraft that requires landing gear repairs isn’t useful to its military force until it becomes fully operable. With land, air, sea, and space fleets continuing to grow, military forces need to improve service execution in order to overcome the maintenance backlogs that are impeding asset readiness.
AR-driven procedural guidance enables service technicians to perform MRO tasks more efficiently by reducing repair times and increasing first-time fix rates. Technicians equipped with AR are more productive, and employers can scale their expertise to save costs and improve service outcomes.
Field service takes on a more urgent dimension during armed conflict. Damaged vehicles and grounded craft can compromise mission objectives and result in military or collateral damage. If the asset is within an active combat engagement, the environment itself can be distracting, challenging, and dangerous. AR can reveal problems while focusing the user on important tasks; the ability to more quickly recognize failure points and execute repairs can literally save lives and contribute to tactical success in the field. Researchers at Purdue University are also exploring how AR can assist field medics in a similar fashion, using assisted reality for more effective training and remote guidance from experienced surgeons during emergency procedures.
Lastly, AR can help military forces and the MRO industry with recruitment of “digital natives”, which will be essential in a future that’s increasingly data and technology-driven. AR can help military forces quickly upskill inexperienced MRO workers, making them effective in the field almost immediately. AR-based training helps workers comprehend and retain information faster, so new technicians can learn and execute the complex maintenance activities that will sustain military assets for years to come.
If you’d like to learn more about how augmented reality is transforming service and driving unprecedented value for aerospace and defense organizations, download this complementary e-book.