The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) recently commenced a trial initiative for maintenance of its C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft using Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality devices with software developed by Boeing. The trials commenced in July with aircraft technicians from No. 36 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley, the service announced in a statement.  

The new maintenance initiative will allow RAAF personnel to share communication and new working practices with their counterparts based in the USA. Such maintenance capability has assumed increased relevance following the Covid-19 pandemic; as Boeing’s Recovery and Modifications Services (RAMS) teams with specialist technicians were unable to travel to Australia to assist with C-17A maintenance tasks including repair and replacement.

The use of Microsoft HoloLens mixed-reality devices by RAAF technicians now allows them to receive technical drawings and documents from RAMS teams, who were not only able to share instant feedback but also direct the overall task. The teams located in Australia and the USA were able to collaborate via a secure ‘cloud’ connection, allowing them to seamlessly work together by sharing screens. The Boeing teams in the USA were able to view exactly what was being seen by the RAAF maintenance teams inside the aircraft through iris tracking.

“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,” said RAAF Maintenance team supervisor Sergeant Thomas Lane. “This technology is a massive benefit to resourcing the workforce moving forward, with significant potential to empower and train less-experienced technicians.” 

According to Boeing C-17A field services manager Glen Schneider, “After the initial maintenance activity, No. 36 Squadron will continue the trial with two HoloLens devices that can be used by accompanied maintenance teams.”