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May 18, 2021

USAF airman creates new mat to reduce foreign object debris

A US Air Force airman has developed a smart maintenance floor mat to reduce foreign object debris.

US Air Force’s (USAF) 509th Bomb Wing Innovation Office assistant 1st class airman Paul Olexa has created a new floor mat designed to reduce foreign object debris (FOD).

FOD threatens aircraft safety and costs the aviation industry an estimated $4bn in repairs each year.

It can come from several sources and poses a ‘major hazard’ to an aircraft.

Paul Olexa said: “From the moment I walked onto the flight line, I was blown away by the sheer power of the B-2 (Spirit)s and the airmen who work around them.

“I began to learn the process for removing, inspecting, and installing parts. I watched how airmen handled tools, parts, and where they placed objects.”

The durable polymer floor mat detects objects via sensors and helps maintainers locate metallic and non-metallic FOD across several tasks.

It was developed for use during military aircraft maintenance.

Olexa noted that there will be a ‘public version with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities’ to the FOD mat.

The mats will be modular and come in various sizes to fit the requirements of different industries. They can also be ‘stacked for storage and charging’.

According to USAF, Olexa pitched his “Mag Rug” idea as an entry to the Spark Tank competition that took place in October last year at Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB).

The judges selected two among a total of eleven ideas to compete at the Air Force Global Strike Command’s Spark Tank competition.

Engineering students at Texas A&M University are further developing the initial prototype in partnership with industry professionals.

USAF noted that the initial prototype is no larger than a pizza box.

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