Home Bots & Bullets Autonomous aircraft inspection system for the U.S. Air Force

Autonomous aircraft inspection system for the U.S. Air Force

by Marco van der Hoeven

RE2 Robotics has received $1.5 million in Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding to develop an autonomous flightline sustainment system for the Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office.  The program, Mobile Autonomous Aircraft Platform for Sustainment (MAAPS), will focus on the development of dual RE2 Sapien robotic arms integrated with a JLG scissor lift to perform tasks on C-17 military aircraft at height.

The system will focus on tasks that are part of the pre- and post-flight inspection of C-17 aircraft, including at-height visual inspection of the aircraft’s fuselage, wing, and tail; the at-height reading of analog gauges; and other autonomous sustainment activities. By enabling these tasks to be performed by a robotic system, MAAPS will reduce the need for military personnel to work at height when conducting routine aircraft inspection repair and maintenance tasks.

Inherently risky

“Whether in the military or in commercial markets, working at height is inherently risky for aircraft maintenance and repair personnel. By automating certain flightline maintenance tasks during aircraft turnarounds, MAAPS will help the U.S. Air Force improve safety, overcome a shortage of trained maintenance personnel, and enhance the efficiency of aircraft readiness,” said Jorgen Pedersen, president and CEO of RE2 Robotics.

The MAAPS system will leverage a pair of the Company’s RE2 Sapien 6M robotic arms, which feature embedded intelligence, integrated arm control, an unprecedented strength-to-weight ratio, and a sleek hardware design that can withstand extreme temperatures and environmental conditions. MAAPS will be designed as a multi-function system with various end-of-arm tools that can be used to perform routine maintenance functions at height, such as refilling engine oil, opening access panels, and engaging with and retrieving tools.

Computer vision

“MAAPS will use RE2’s advanced computer vision and autonomy software, RE2 Detect and RE2 Intellect, to autonomously identify and travel to an aircraft to perform flightline sustainment tasks,” said Dr. Adam Brant, project manager, RE2 Robotics. “The goal is for this system to be a mobile, mission-adaptable platform that can perform ground-based line maintenance tasks in a variety of environmental conditions, including harsh weather that may be hazardous for Air Force personnel.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert

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