How does a pair of glasses help technicians repair airplanes?
Updated 22:33, 12-Sep-2020
By Ning Hong

With the improvement of high technology, technicians can now wear Augmented Reality – or AR – glasses to repair airplanes.

Fan Xiangyu is a technical support supervisor for HNA Technic working at Beijing Capital International Airport. When we meet him, he is cleaning the optical fiber of the meteorological radar of a Boeing 787, a delicate job that requires his full attention.

Thousands of kilometers away in Haikou, Hainan Province, Fan's supervisor and other engineers are watching the process at the company's headquarters.

The whole system is based on the 5G network, which can support a high-definition live signal. Fan can also see feedback through his glasses.

"For some complex repair work, we used to rely on phones or WeChat to communicate with backstage support. But with 5G and AR devices, the biggest advantage is that there is no lag in communication, and the interactive features greatly improve efficiency," Fan said.

With the help of 5G network and AR equipment, the airline now enjoys more immersive remote technical support. This is important to improve the efficiency and safety of its operation.

"We've spent over a year to evaluate and test the project, and found it is useful and can help our engineers assess technical problems together and reduce the time of aircraft on the ground," Yang Dongsheng, deputy general manager of the Maintenance Control Department at HNA Technic, said. "People at the help desk can get the same view as people in the field. This is extremely useful in improving our efficiency." 

The system was developed by China Mobile's Industrial Research Institute in Chengdu and HNA Technic, which aims to promote the application of 5G and AR in the aviation maintenance industry.

"It is a convenient, inexpensive and efficient tool, and it also helps people avoid close contact during the pandemic," Zhang Chi, project manager of China Mobile, said. "The entire overhaul process can be seamlessly recorded and the repair data can be saved. This provides the foundation for future big data analytics and even AI-assisted diagnostics."

Earlier this year, HNA Technic carried out a practical use test in Paris. Now it is planning to deploy more 5G glasses to its maintenance bases.

"Aviation maintenance companies must have a lot of experienced technicians in bases across the world, but they are isolated and can only be stationed at one base. With the system, we can build a powerful backstage and concentrate our technical force to provide support to all bases. It will certainly improve the safety and efficiency of our business," said Zhang Zhigang, chairman of HNA Technic.

As the 5G network will soon cover all airports in China, applications based on this new technology will have a deep impact on the aviation industry.