Research and development remains the cornerstone of our business. Last year alone, Marshall ADG invested £2 million on R&D to develop new and enhance existing products and processes.
Our R&D department employs around 20 dedicated professionals, though everyone within the entire business is encouraged to contribute ideas for investigation and the potential to develop into real life future products and services.
One such technology is augmented reality, which opens a world of possibilities for the design, build, integration and testing of new air platforms, and the training of personnel, wherever they may be in the world.
Our expertise for many years has been in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of C-130 Hercules aircraft. We began supporting this platform for the UK MoD in the 1960s, and have since undertaken similar projects for many other international operators.
There have been many technological advances in the more than five decades of working on C-130s, and augmented reality is the latest technology that looks set to make a dramatic impact.
It has already shaken up a number of military and consumer applications and has the potential to further enhance the interoperability of a stalwart aircraft operated by many international air forces, and broaden the reach of the UK’s aerospace engineering capabilities around the world.
Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR) provides a more immersive experience, by superimposing images onto a user’s real-world situation.
In the same way as it can improve the situational awareness of soldiers through an eyepiece that helps them locate their position, as well as friends and foe, augmented reality enables a platform such as an aircraft or deployed ground infrastructure, to be scanned before delivering real-time information.
This data can be used to support diagnosis, MRO and equipment integration plans and ensure quicker and more efficient through-life support.
Augmented reality will play its part in bringing the development and integration plans to life to enable a far better understanding of the end system at a much earlier stage in its development.
For complex platform integration, a green aircraft can be brought to life with a spectrum of sensors, equipment and mission systems that enable the user to deliver the required concept of operations into service.
This close relationship between the platform integrator and the end user, wherever each might be in in the world, ensures the integration plans being developed are the primary focus, to ensure the delivered capability fits the overall system requirements and delivers the optimal capability for the customers’ mission requirements.
That will then give air forces and defence procurement agencies greater and more accurate information before making complex commercial procurement decisions.
A pilot will be able to undertake a simulated mission using a synthetic model to represent the air platform and connected systems, while using AR to bring this to life in the virtual cockpit of an aircraft that hasn’t yet flown.
Optimising the design approach using digital twin and synthetic modelling helps bring the system to life in the virtual world before starting to build a physical test aircraft, thereby saving untold expense.
The same can apply in MRO applications. We could laser scan a platform when it arrives, superimpose AR, share with relevant team members, across a number of locations, validate the build standard and visualise any modifications, all of which enables better planning of the MRO activity.
It enables operators to see what needs to be done and how it can be done, as well as the impact it will all have on the platform, before undertaking costly and time-consuming projects.
Maintenance manuals will be located on an AR Cloud to provide a 3D map of the plan that can then be overlaid onto the real platform.
It also has a useful training element, both for those undertaking the MRO or integration programmes on specific aircraft or to train apprentices, who are quite likely to be using this technology in their everyday working lives in the not too distant future.
The technology exists and is making an impact in other industries, so it’s just a matter of time before we see its application in aerospace and across military projects.