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Turkish Technic Uses RFID, ZigBee and Other Auto-ID Technologies to Improve Efficiency

The system helps Turkish Airlines' maintenance, repair and overhaul division to identify and manage the movements of aircraft, components, tools, technicians and vehicles as the planes are serviced and maintained.
By Claire Swedberg

Ground services equipment and staff are being tracked via about 350 active ZigBee sensors, complying with the IEEE 802.15.4 standard. Some sensors are attached to moving equipment, such as small ground vehicles, while others are worn by personnel in the form of badges.

Each sensor transmits its unique ID at set intervals, and receives and forwards the transmitted data via a mesh network formed by all of the ZigBee sensors that the company has deployed. That data is ultimately collected by access points that forward the information to the back-end software, so that management can view the locations of individuals and equipment in real time. Outdoors, location is identified by GPS technology built into each ZigBee sensor. For assets and personnel located indoors, the system employs a combination of received signal strength (RSSI) and signal time of arrival (TOA). Turkish Technic utilizes a network of mobile and fixed sensors for this purpose. About 50 stationary ZigBee sensors have been attached to the hangars' walls. RSSI and TOA values for the transmissions of each mobile sensor are calculated based on the locations of the fixed sensors.

When it comes to the aircraft, the company needs to know each plane's location and the health of its various systems, as well as the hangar's availability. Currently, almost all Turkish Airlines aircraft are equipped with ACARS and ADS-B transponders, and Turkish Technic is thus using those technologies to feed location and system-health data into the system. To determine whether or not a particular hangar is already occupied, the solution uses video cameras.

Plans to further extend the project to various aircraft component maintenance shops within the organization are still underway, Hasekioglu says.

Since the system was installed in several phases throughout the past three years, Hasekioglu reports, the availability of and access to ground services equipment has improved twofold. This, he says, has enabled the company to reduce the amount of extra inventory that it previously kept onsite in case equipment could not be located.

The amount of time that technicians spend carrying out repairs has grown by 20 percent, the company notes, since the system has reduced the time they spend searching for tools or equipment, compared with in the past. What's more, the firm is better able to provide real-time management, monitoring and scheduling of maintenance resources, including technicians, equipment, aircraft, tools and cabin interior emergency devices.

The project has received financial support from the Turkish Science and Technology Foundation.

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