Cockpit panel checker
First robot system that checks cockpit controls automatically
How bright is bright?
When is the switch of an instrument in the cockpit worn out? And when is an LED light too dark for flight operations? A cockpit instrument passes through a lot of hands over the course of its life: from pilots through line maintenance staff to the technicians in the workshops. All of these people have a different perception of what something looks or feels like. So if there are no instructions, each person decides individually when to replace a dark LED or a worn-out switch. Up to now, it was not possible to make consistent, reliable forecasts for the service life of these components.
During the Robot Controlled Cockpit Electronics Testing (RoCCET) project, which ran from mid-2016 to the end of 2018, the Aircraft Component Services division at Lufthansa Technik developed the first robot system for fully automated tests of cockpit controls in the world. The robot has integrated sensors to measure the forces that occur when switches are activated. In addition, it is equipped with several industrial cameras with which it captures all display instruments and any outside damage. With another camera, it measures the brightness of all displays from various angles.
Reduced burden on employees
Thanks to its integrated sensors, the robot system is able to check all switches and displays and perform defined functional tests just as well as a human. A significant advantage is that the system eases the burden on employees and reduces the labor input by one to two hours per device while providing concrete measurement data in line with uniform standards.
RoCCET for all common aircraft types
The next step consists of using data mining – that is, a combined analysis of available aircraft data and newly generated measurement data – to determine when a display or switch is nearing the end of its lifecycle so that it can be replaced in good time within the framework of preventive maintenance. This increases the components' reliability after a repair and reduces unplanned component removals for the customer. The robot-based test procedure is currently in the integration phase. In 2019, Lufthansa Technik plans to establish its use for various cockpit controls on Airbus A320 and A350 as well as Boeing 787 aircraft. In the future, it may also be used for other cockpit and cabin controls on all aircraft types at various locations.