Autonomous and Intelligent Aircraft Maintenance Technologies
Navy SBIR 2020.1 - Topic N201-015
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick - donna.attick@navy.mil
Opens: January 14, 2020 - Closes: February 12, 2020 (8:00 PM ET)

N201-015

TITLE: Autonomous and Intelligent Aircraft Maintenance Technologies

 

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Human Systems, Materials/Processes

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: NAE Chief Technology Office

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop autonomous Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based systems to work with or alongside aircraft maintainers to reduce manning and/or to augment the abilities of aircraft maintainers.

DESCRIPTION: There is a need to support reliability and maintainability of aviation assets that will directly reduce life cycle costs by augmenting or replacing manual operations. The Navy has demonstrated use of smart algorithms combined into optical detection systems to detect, identify, and quantify defects and damage. Augmented reality (AR)/virtual reality (VR) are used in industry today to greatly enhance maintenance and training, and are tools for doing both remotely. The Navy has recently experimented with AR/VR technologies for improved training. In the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Centers, robotics are currently used for industrial processes such as coatings removal, coatings application and thermal spray metal repair application to increase precision, quality, and throughput. The Navy has recently demonstrated an autonomous mobile-portable robotic metallization system for on-aircraft maintenance that has shown the effectiveness of such technology deployed to Intermediate level maintenance. All of these technologies have proven to benefit all levels of aircraft maintenance. The next step is to combine AI algorithms, sensors, AR/VR, and/or robotics to develop smart autonomous systems or tools.

The Navy seeks the development of technologies specifically for the aircraft maintenance community to perform functions such as material inspection, non-destructive inspection, coatings inspection and repair, and training. A specific need exists in the maintenance, inspection and repair of special coatings that require precision, where the current methods are manual. The Navy also seeks the development of an AI system to map out damaged areas such as in corrosion maintenance; repair by removing precise layers of coating and then reapply precise layers of coating; and catalog historical data. Autonomous or Intelligent “smart” technologies have the potential to give artisan capabilities to intermediate or field-level aircraft maintainers, utilizing AR/VR to autonomous robots.

The technology, if wearable or handheld, must be minimal size, minimal weight, and the most power. Ideally, if worn or held, it should be lightweight and easy to use, compact as much as possible, ergonomic, and a as long of a battery life as possible or self-powered as this technology will be used in the field. These features are also preferable for a robotic system, but a robotic system must be able to maneuver, manipulate, or traverse around fixed-wing aircraft, rotary-wing aircraft, or unmanned aircraft, of all Type/Model/or Series (TMS). If an autonomous system, it should be capable of finding, fixing, and finishing with minimal or no human interaction.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DSS and NAVAIR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Assess current aircraft maintenance practices such as cleaning, coatings removal, non-destructive inspection, and corrosion assessment. Determine areas that are candidates for autonomous maintenance, integration of AI, or other smart-based systems such as AR tools. Design, develop, and demonstrate feasibility of an approach. Perform an analysis of alternatives and benefit analysis to meet the requirements laid out in the Description. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop, construct, evaluate, and demonstrate a prototype autonomous AI-based technology or an AR/VR tool or technology for aircraft maintenance based upon the conclusion of Phase I. Perform demonstration of the technology on indicative aircraft structures or test on mock-ups of unmanned aerial systems, fixed-wing aircraft, or rotary-wing aircraft. Demonstrate prototypes in a lab environment with the anticipation of deployment to the field.

Work in Phase II may become classified.  Please see note in Description paragraph.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Demonstrate and evaluate the technology on a demonstration aircraft. Transition the technology into an active Marine Corps Squadron or Navy Squadron, or Fleet Readiness Center/Depot, for implementation into the Navy. The technologies developed would apply directly to the commercial aviation industry, general aircraft maintenance, as well as potential broad application in the coatings industry.

REFERENCES:

1. 2018 LMI Estimated Impact of Corrosion on Cost and Availability of DoD Weapon Systems FY18 Update Report SAL62T1 https://www.corrdefense.org/static/media/content/11393.000.00T1-March2018-Ecopy.pdf

2. “Jet Maintenance Robots: Shaping the Future of BizAv Compliance and Safety?” Blog by Sam. L&L International, Corporate Jet Insider, September 27, 2018. https://l-lint.com/blog/jet-maintenance-robots-shaping-future-bizav-compliance-safety/

3. “U.S. Navy Tests Augmented Reality Tech for Training and Operations.” The Maritime Executive, April 9, 2019. https://www.maritime-executive.com/article/u-s-navy-tests-augmented-reality-tech-for-training-and-operations

4. Chang, P. “U.S. Navy Enlists Virtual and Augmented Reality for Cutting-Edge Training and Recruitment.” AR Post, October 12, 2018. https://arpost.co/2018/10/12/us-navy-virtual-augmented-reality-cutting-edge-training-recruitment/

5. Potter, K. “Augmented Reality becoming a focus in maintenance technology.” Geopspacial World, January 2019. https://www.geospatialworld.net/blogs/augmented-reality-becoming-a-focus-in-maintenance-technology/

6. Rio, R. “Augmented Reality Reduces Mean-Time-To-Repair.” ARC Advisory Group, May 2018. https://www.arcweb.com/blog/augmented-reality-reduces-mean-time-repair

7. Kohles, C. “Augmented Reality: Remote Assistance and Maintenance Overview.” Wikitude, November 2017. https://www.wikitude.com/blog-augmented-reality-maintenance-and-remote-assistance/

8. “Boeing Tests Augmented Reality in the Factory.” Boeing Features & Multimedia, January 2019. https://www.boeing.com/features/2018/01/augmented-reality-01-18.page

9. Wright, I. “Airbus Uses Smart Glasses to Improve Manufacturing Efficiency.” Engineering.com, March 2017.https://www.engineering.com/AdvancedManufacturing/ArticleID/14634/Airbus-Uses-Smart-Glasses-to-Improve-Manufacturing-Efficiency.aspx

10. Coxworth, B. “Aircraft-inspecting robot successfully climbs a 737.” New Atlas, January 2019. https://newatlas.com/vortex-robot-aircraft-inspection/58198/

11. Bjerregaard, L. “Aircraft Inspection Robots Receive an Upgrade.” MRO Network, December 2018. https://www.mro-network.com/emerging-technology/aircraft-inspection-robots-receive-upgrade

12. Herzberg, E., Chang, P., O’Meara, N. and Stroh, R. “The Effect of Corrosion on the Cost and Availability of Navy and Marine Corps Aviation Weapon Systems” U.S. Department of Defense Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office, December 2014. https://www.corrdefense.org/static/media/uploads/Resources/Navy/the_effect_of_corrosion_on_the_cost_and_availability_of_navy_and_marine_corps_aviation_weapon_DEC2014.pdf

KEYWORDS: Autonomous; Artificial Intelligence; Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality; Robotics; Sustainment; Readiness