Robotic Solutions: Aviation
Transforming aviation worker safety and productivity
Airports worldwide are struggling with soaring customer dissatisfaction rates due to complaints over flight cancellations, ground servicing delays, mishandled baggage, and more. The rapid increase in post-COVID-19 air passenger and freight loads has only intensified these current problems. There is no sign of slowing down: The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) projects that passenger traffic and freight volumes will double by 2035.
At the same time, airports are also facing a severe labor shortage: In its 20-year fleet forecast for 2019 to 2038, Boeing projected that 769,000 new maintenance technicians will be needed to maintain the world’s fleet. But, with 30 percent of aircraft mechanics in the U.S. alone at or near retirement age, and with the number of qualified replacements failing to meet that gap, airports must ensure a way for the current workforce to continue to provide the skills and capabilities necessary to service older-generation aircraft.
This labor shortage is exacerbated by a high turnover rate, driven by on-the-job injuries and the need to perform highly physical and repetitive tasks for long hours—often in hazardous environments. Even with aerial lifts and mobile stairs, some workers must still step directly onto planes to clean and inspect contoured areas of the aircraft. In addition to the inherent risks these tasks involve, these methods lack efficiency; the timeline to completion can delay flights or take airplanes off the runway for as long as six weeks.
Such challenges expose a critical need for new strategies and technologies to modernize and scale operations both in and outside the airport, including apron-servicing areas and aircraft hangars. In addition, enabling airlines and airport facilities to manage larger quantities of ground handling equipment, luggage handling, aircraft maintenance, and other ground services will be critical to optimizing the flow of travel.
Sarcos can help tackle the aviation industry’s pressing challenges with its next-generation, technologically advanced robots. Our robotic systems, including the Guardian XM and Guardian XT robots, are versatile, highly mobile, and dexterous robotic systems designed to enable a safer, more productive workforce.
We are designing robots to augment the workforce in a wide range of applications, including heavy cargo/luggage handling, deicing, at-height inspections, repairs, refueling and water services, and heavy tools manipulation. Leveraging more than 30 years of design and development of our powered, full-body exoskeletons and highly dexterous mobile manipulation robots for unstructured environments, our vision is to cater to the emerging trends shaping the aviation industry and revolutionize the workforce of the future by redefining what is humanly possible.
Advantages and Capabilities
Hazardous weather conditions in certain areas can delay the completion of certain duties. But the rugged hardware that comprises our outdoor-rated Guardian XT and Guardian XM robotic systems can tolerate extreme temperatures and environmental conditions like rain and snow--even the corrosive effects of salt spray.
Other advantages include:
- Capable of semi-autonomous manipulation or teleoperation from a safe, remote distance.
- Standard end effector interfaces allow for a variety of end-of-arm tool options.
- Low profile and hardened mechanical design are resilient to shock and vibration indoors or outdoors.
- Standard power and communication interfaces allow fast and easy integration with 3rd party tools and sensors.
Whether teleoperated or programmed for semi-autonomous operation, the Guardian XT and Guardian XM robots are designed for various tasks: for example, heavy cargo & luggage handling, deicing, at-height inspections, repairs, re-fueling and water services, and heavy tools manipulation. Routine or repetitive tasks may benefit from a semi-autonomous robotic system to enhance worker safety and increase efficiency. At the same time, teleoperation may be required for highly variable or complex applications requiring more flexibility, human expertise, and decision-making capabilities. Our team will work with you to identify the optimal robotic solution tailored to the specific requirements of your application.
Generally, maintenance checks must be performed every 24 to 60 hours of accumulated flight time. More thorough maintenance inspections, like C- and D-Checks, require multiple people and equipment to inspect the plane. In addition, sudden calls, like an FAA ground stop, require aircraft to be held at their origin airport or diverted to another airport. One of the most restrictive calls in traffic management, ground stops due to weather, equipment outages, or extreme events cause further delays and disruptions to flight operations.
With the ability to perform numerous tasks, our advanced robotic solutions are helping to streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve the overall passenger experience in a variety of ways:
Deicing Aircraft: Deicing aircraft at the gate: Using a robotic system to semi-autonomously apply deicing fluid to the aircraft while it is still at the gate can help to ensure better coverage and reduce waste. Deicing at the gate also improves turnaround times by reducing the need for the aircraft to be towed to a separate location.
Surface Preparation: Our systems are designed for use in a variety of MRO-related surface removal tasks, including corn starch blasting; the rapid removal of surface coatings from sensitive components using fine particle media; and the removal of composite coatings from aircraft body to prep for recoating, via semi-autonomous sanding.
Baggage Handling: Sarcos semi-autonomous baggage handling solution can help replace traditional baggage handling systems with semi-autonomous systems that transport and unload baggage. This solution also targets the robot-assisted movement of bags from bag room to conveyor to designated carts.
Ground Services: Our Guardian line of robots is designed to augment apron inspection and maintenance tasks, including semi-autonomous refueling, water servicing, and cargo door opening. In addition, our robots are designed to inspect and maintain the exterior of an aircraft while it’s on the ground.
Sarcos robotic systems are intended to help keep workers safe and work moving more efficiently by:
- Improving turnaround times for inspections
- Enabling faster maintenance work completion times
- Reducing worker injuries due to weather conditions and at-height work
- Minimizing deicing fluid waste, which reduces costs and environmental impact