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How augmented reality can advance nuclear operations

Augmented Reality (AR) allows reactor workers to access instructional manuals and videos, and speak directly to colleagues and experts thousands of miles away, as they perform tasks of maintenance. Daryl Roy and Kelly Malone Explain

The safe and efficient operation of a nuclear facility depends on a skilled workforce capable of servicing, diagnosing and maintaining sophisticated systems and complex equipment that must function – and work together – flawlessly.

Utilities can invest a million dollars and more to train an individual operator, over 18 months and more. The goal is exceptional skill and adherence to procedures, as well as a solid knowledge of facility design and theory. But even with the best training, there is no replacement for operators with hands-on experience, who have a level of knowledge that cannot be achieved in a classroom or training program. Utilities need to apply this invaluable knowledge.

At the same time, energy companies need to upgrade the skills of veterans on the front lines. The additional skills are often state of the art and it is essential to provide continuous and regular training to operators.

Technological advancements offer innovative ways to harness the knowledge and skills of experienced workers and train new generations of operators on basic procedures and new protocols. Specifically, advanced augmented reality (AR) systems that allow nuclear facility operators to stay fully abreast of best practices and allow them to access expert instruction on rarely used procedures if needed.

The role of AR can be linked to a SMART approach to operational fundamentals:

  • Solid knowledge – Does what you do provide the individual with powerful and actionable knowledge and enable them to make the right decision at the right time?
  • To watch – Do you have the capacity to effectively monitor the installation?
  • Act with a conservative bias – Do you install the technology for the technology? Do you need it? Does he help?
  • Rigorous control – Do you consider all the risks involved, both physical risks and cyber risks? Are you taking proactive steps to control and manage these risks?
  • Team work – Did you consider more than obvious users? Consider technologically advanced operators, as well as team members who may prefer pen and paper. Make technology easy to use and essential for all people.

Capture valuable organizational knowledge

Unique information – equipment-specific maintenance and repair procedures, system information, information on available organizational resources, even knowledge of management style and corporate culture is knowledge specific to the company priceless.

This unique body of knowledge is complemented by new and expanding SCADA / Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and associated data, provided by a new generation of sensors. The sensors are integrated into existing equipment, as well as standard on new equipment.

Advanced AR systems can meet the need for “hard knowledge” (above), capturing utility-specific knowledge and leveraging system data, turning it into procedures that all frontline staff can use. The result is improved operational efficiency, increased safety, and consistent completion of complex tasks, which increases employee productivity and allows utilities to operate safely and cost effectively.

Provide real-time access to created content

With instructions provided via AR, operators can walk to an equipment and follow step-by-step instructions to perform the job using a phone or tablet, or a headset when operating hands free is needed. Performing complex tasks consistently and efficiently is an essential goal.

The ability of the experts to create content themselves is essential, especially when it comes to communicating procedures for infrequent maintenance tasks such as reactor head ventilation.

With this need in mind, AR systems like Taqtile’s Manifest are designed to be intuitive. Knowledge experts are able to create step-by-step digital work instructions overlaid on plant equipment, which other operators view through their device or headset. The author can also make available materials to aid the repair or maintenance process, such as photographs, videos, PDFs or manuals and documents, delivered in a hands-free head-up display when needed.

Real-time access to content, from step-by-step video instructions guiding frontline staff through complex procedures to detailed holograms, will increase the value of AR. And if needed, live remote support from the facility operations center, head office or OEMs can be made available.

To aid in the audit, capturing evidence – an image or video showing good performance, or visuals demonstrating the completion of a task – is essential. Evidence capture also helps orchestrate operations between teams, where one operator can be located on one piece of equipment, another on an electrical panel, and a third in the control room. Everyone has their specific task in performing a complex procedure, and AR platforms can help guide each individual while keeping other team members informed of status and progress in real time.

The ability to enable two-way video, real-time remote guidance and on-site access to knowledge repositories, helps remove ambiguity from the communication process and allows workers to perform complex tasks on the machine .

Harness the power of 5G

Nuclear facilities plan to embrace 5G, with advanced computing capabilities, support for remote operations, and improved safety and reliability. With 5G, the capabilities and value of AR applications increase as 5G makes data more portable and AR systems faster, more secure and more resilient.

Maximizing expertise within organizations is also supported by AR and powered by 5G. AR platforms can capture and disseminate expert knowledge and distribute it to other staff members, regardless of their location, making employees more productive faster, with less classroom time.

The integration of AR with IIoT technologies will be greatly enhanced by 5G and the incorporation of sensors into existing equipment. It will deliver transparent information on demand, directly to the location of frontline workers, allowing them direct and secure access to critical data. 5G also reduces latency, increases throughput, and enables more sensors to be deployed and connected, providing more data for machine learning to inform maintenance tasks.

Meanwhile, advancements in device authentication measures, encryption of user traffic between devices and the network, and additional security protocols provide a new level of security required by utilities.

The Manifest AR solution

The Manifest Platform is an augmented, end-to-end work instruction platform that enables nuclear utilities to capture knowledge enabling interactive work instructions and provide ‘over the shoulder’ assistance in the event of a failure. need.

The platform functions as an advanced help center for frontline workers. The benefits include increased personnel efficiency and accuracy during complex operations and maintenance tasks.

Real-time interactions between remote experts and field operators have traditionally been limited to simple audio communication. Manifest change by taking full advantage of the power of AR, sharing the full on-site operator experience with the remote expert through enhanced AR communication on the most popular AR-enabled devices – HoloLens, Magic Leap, iPad, Trimble XR10 and Android phones. For example, an expert working from a PC or tablet in a remote location can follow the operator through a first-person view of a valve alignment check in containment, seeing precisely where operators watch with continuous eye movement. This capability mitigates the risk of positioning errors and human error. By following the operator’s view, a remote expert is able to guide the operator with real-time instructions, including annotating directly in the operator’s environment, using directional arrows or highlights to guide the operator.

Help center-style interactions available through the Manifest platform between the remote expert and the frontline worker improve the capabilities and efficiency of all staff:

  • Virtual ink – Experts can draw and place targets within the operator’s field of view, and incorporate spatial sound, producing sounds that emanate from a position in the operator’s environment for easier location.
  • Hologram sharing – In addition to the video feed provided by the headset, operators can share holograms including any Manifest UI or 3D models in their view.
  • Orientation – Remote experts can render holographic directional arrows in the operator’s field of vision to guide them through the on-site environment.
  • Eye tracking – By following the position of the operator’s eyes and projecting a directional image on the expert’s desk, the expert can follow what the operator is looking at, enabling more precise remote assistance.

For example, Taqtile’s industrial customers have seen remarkable improvements in trainee performance, with some companies cutting training times by 700%. At the same time, this has increased precision, reducing operator errors to zero in some cases.

Manifest can also capture evidence and operational data as part of regular inspections and preventive maintenance, supporting regulatory requirements and meeting associated audit and monitoring needs.

From improving training performance to upgrading frontline workers on new technologies, AR will enable utilities to capture the knowledge of their most experienced operators and share that knowledge in real time across the organization.

About the authors

Daryl Roy is Founder, 3D Media

Kelly Malone is Client Manager, Taqtile

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.

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