Collaborative robotics, virtual reality and aircraft cabin disease transmission prevention are among the latest projects under way at Boeing Research and Technology-Australia – the manufacturer’s largest research organisation outside of the United States.

Boeing’s Australian research organisation – based in Melbourne and Brisbane – has been at the forefront of numerous pioneering developments that have been rolled out by the aerospace giant. For example, the resin infusion carbonfibre production technique, pioneered in Australia, is used by Boeing Aerostructures Australia for the production of moveable trailing edge control surfaces for the 787, while pioneering work on the use of unmanned vehicles for civil purposes has resulted in Boeing company Insitu Pacific winning civil contracts, including deploying a ScanEagle remotely piloted aircraft to inspect gas wells and pipelines for Shell in Queensland.

A new work area is investigating cabin disease transmission prevention, says Michael Edwards, general manager of Boeing Research and Technology-Australia. The organisation is working with the University of Queensland on the research, which is looking at the prevention of virus transmission onboard, such as influenza. The research is in the early days, with Boeing hoping to develop it over the next few years, says Edwards.

Virtual reality is also “an interesting space for us”, says Edwards, particularly in the area of pilot training to allow the industry cope with its growth requirements. Boeing is exploring advanced simulation training potential.

Work by the organisation in collaborative robotics has recently seen the entry into service of a robot working alongside people in Boeing Aerostructures’ Fishermen's Bend facility, where a robot has taken over the previously labour-intensive job of shaving titanium stems for 737 ailerons. The robot has allowed an increase in production.

“We are now looking at other applications for the robot to work alongside humans,” says Edwards.

“The mindset isn’t to replace the human, but to enhance,” adds Dr Shane Arnott, director of Phantom Works International, adding that the focus of its activities is to enhance production output.

Source: Cirium Dashboard