This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
China’s Comac has begun adding 5G infrastructure at its C919 test facilities as a part of an industry-wide effort to accelerate the development of its domestically produced narrowbody jet program, the company said Sunday. The move comes as engineering teams seek to gain confirmation of aircraft testing via a remote witness test platform to limit the movement of personnel amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Notwithstanding the relative immaturity of fifth-generation networks, Comac officials said the company had implemented a virtual platform using an initial phase of 5G technology, allowing China’s regulator to remotely view fire protection testing of the C919’s auxiliary power unit’s firewall. The Second Research Institute of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) carried out the test for the first time on April 17.
While authorities acknowledged that aircraft testing generally requires an on-site CAAC representative, Comac expressed optimism that it could regularly use the upgrade to a more efficient and robust 5G network architecture in future remote witness testing to “alleviate the shortage of human resources” while reducing travel expenses and other expenditures. The Chinese airframer added that it also was working with other virtual work technologies, including remote acceptance testing of its C919 full-flight simulator (FSS) with Canadian training specialist CAE. Officially launched in March, the pivot to remote acceptance testing comes after plans to send the C919 FSS to Canada fell through in February due to Covid-19.
In a separate development, Comac revealed that it uses robotic and augmented reality (AR) technologies to maintain social distancing among ARJ-21-700 and CR929 work teams. According to a company statement, engineers successfully implemented an indigenously developed augmented reality-based cable connector and assembly system to the ARJ-21’s second production line at Shanghai Pudong International Airport to assist teams with wire terminations. Comac said the new technology has reduced the number of staff required from three to one.
Meanwhile, work teams have successfully applied homegrown robotic drilling, position clamping, and scanning systems in the development of its Sino-Russian CR929 program to reduce the risk of personnel gatherings. According to officials, the company has completed the assembly of two CR929 aircraft composite fuselages.