Today is the release of Episode 2 of The Connected Engineer – PTC’s new podcast series aimed at the people who turn napkin sketches into reality. This week’s episode focuses on how new technologies -- such as smart, connected products and Augmented and Virtual Reality – are being deployed in the Aerospace & Defense (A&D) industry. Joining host, Gavin Quinlan, are Ian Boulton, Sales Business Transformation Manager at PTC, and Retired U.S. Air Force General, Brent Baker.
The Aerospace & Defense industry has historically been a leader in deploying smart, connected products. Aerospace manufacturers, for example, have been taking sensor readings and collecting data from complex assets, such as aircraft engines, for over a decade. Now, this same software is becoming more advanced and commonly used throughout the enterprise. “Typical applications of that technology would be remote sensing, condition monitoring, or looking at the data and performing some sort of diagnostics or even predictive analytics around the way the asset is performing and how that could be optimized,’ explains Boulton.
What’s more interesting for the industry is the introduction of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR). Gen. Baker illustrated how Newport News Shipbuilding is already using AR/VR: “As they build [aircraft] carriers, they build them in pieces. Well, they put on a lot of bulk structure to be able to lift the pieces into place and, after a while, they forget where that added material is! So now, they’ve been using Augmented Reality to mark that and then later, go back and find it using [AR/VR] glasses, an iPad, or a phone. They go back and say ‘Oh, this piece was supposed to have been removed.’”
Boulton stressed that the adoption of AR/VR is going to become critical as a new generation of engineers and manufacturers enter the field. It is this new generation that is also the primary consumer of some of today’s most popular AR/VR applications, including last year’s wildly popular Pokemon Go video game. “With typical Aerospace and Defense lifecycle – whether we’re talking about an Airbus A320 or an F35 – the in-service life of these products is incredibly long,” he explains. “You’re talking anywhere between 20 and 50 years. And so, the kids today who are playing Pokemon Go on their iPhones are going to be the same adults who are using this technology 5, 10, or 15 years from now. So to make them efficient, we need to provide them information in a way that they can consume it.”
Gen Baker recounted how he experienced AR/VR for the first time while visiting a PTC customer. The customer’s AR/VR experience allowed Gen. Baker to conduct maintenance on both a motor and windshield wiper on a P3 Orion aircraft. “It was hard to believe that I wasn’t standing literally inside of an aircraft,” he marveled.