RE2 Robotics has received a contract to develop an autonomous flight line sustainment system for the US Air Force (USAF) Rapid Sustainment Office.

Under the Mobile Autonomous Aircraft Platform for Sustainment (MAAPS) programme, RE2 Robotics will build dual RE2 Sapien robotic arms.

The arms are equipped with a JLG scissor lift to help execute tasks on C-17 military airlift aircraft.

The sustainment system will focus on pre and post-flight inspection tasks such as visual inspection of the fuselage, wing and tail, and taking analogue gauges reading of the C-17 aircraft at height.

According to the company, MAAPS will minimise the need for military crew to work at height during routine aircraft inspection repair and maintenance.

RE2 Robotics president and CEO Jorgen Pedersen said: “Whether in the military or in commercial markets, working at height is inherently risky for aircraft maintenance and repair personnel.

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“By automating certain flight line maintenance tasks during aircraft turnarounds, MAAPS will help the US Air Force improve safety, overcome a shortage of trained maintenance personnel, and enhance the efficiency of aircraft readiness.”

The company received $1.5m in Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding for the development effort.

RE2 Robotics noted that the MAAPS system will use a pair of the company’s RE2 Sapien 6M robotic arms.

With a sleek hardware design, these robotic arms feature embedded intelligence and integrated arm control.

RE2 Robotics project manager Adam Brant said: “MAAPS will use RE2’s advanced computer vision and autonomy software, RE2 Detect and RE2 Intellect, to autonomously identify and travel to an aircraft to perform flight line sustainment tasks.

“The goal is for this system to be a mobile, mission-adaptable platform that can perform ground-based line maintenance tasks in a variety of environmental conditions, including harsh weather that may be hazardous for airforce personnel.”

In May 2016, RE2 Robotics secured a subcontract from a division of Applied Research Associates to develop robotic systems for the USAF’s rapid airfield damage repair programme.