The newest member of the AREA is one of the largest companies in the aerospace, defense, security, and technologies industry – and an Augmented Reality pioneer.
It’s Lockheed Martin. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company, which employs 98,000 people worldwide, joined the AREA as a Sponsor member in October. Lockheed Martin will be represented on the AREA board by Christi Fiorentini, a senior manufacturing applications engineer in Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia Aeronautics organization.
Fiorentini traces Lockheed’s involvement in AR back about 15 years, when the company’s research and development team began exploring opportunities for the technology. Each of Lockheed Martin’s business units — Aeronautics, Space Systems, Missiles and Fire Control, and Rotary and Mission Systems – has experimented with the technology. About five years ago, Fiorentini’s unit, Aeronautics, began looking into augmented reality for remote subject matter expert applications.
“The technology then wasn’t quite up to par for use in a production environment, so it got put on the back burner,” recalled Fiorentini. “Around October last year, Aeronautics gained a new interest in the technology when we observed many start-ups and smaller businesses bringing AR to fruition.”
Lockheed Martin is seeking to incorporate augmented reality throughout the product lifecycle, from the initial design phase all the way through sustainment, with a heavy interest in manufacturing.
“We’ve been investigating the technology, going to conferences, and developing proofs of concept to build business cases, because we need to prove that this technology can work within our own boundaries so that we can make the investment,” said Fiorentini. “If we’re going to shift into this realm of technology, it’s a big move, a big status quo change, and so while I do believe the ROI is there, we need to show that it works on our actual use cases to convince our leadership to invest in it.”
That’s why Lockheed Martin joined the AREA.
“I think more people across our business are starting to realize the potential of the technology and so we’re trying to formalize our approach across the entire enterprise,” Fiorentini noted. “We’re working to bring individual players from our different business areas together and define a more strategic approach to exploit this technology. We have some upcoming pilots that we’re working on with some of the leading AR vendors, and we’re members of DMDII, the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute. As we engage more with these vendors and other enterprise members investigating this technology, we saw the AREA as being a good place to start pushing what we think should be best practice. We’re a big player in the aerospace and defense industry, so we’re looking at how we can use our influence to shape what the AR industry for enterprise is going to look like and the AREA is a great place to help convey that message.”