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Experiment to Verify Local 5G at Nanki-Shirahama Airport: Guiding visitors using multiple robots and enabling smart maintenance for staff


On March 14, Nanki-Shirahama Airport, NEC, THK, and Oriental Consultants began a verification experiment at Nanki-Shirahama Airport, located in Shirahama, Wakayama Prefecture, to develop new services aimed at resolving problems using local 5G and related technologies. The verification will be run until the 31st of March 2023 (subject to change). Two companies, Microsoft Japan and Toppan Inc., are cooperating in this experiment.

Visitors operating the robot and receiving guidance
Provided by Nanki-Shirahama Airport, NEC

The six companies cooperated on a new local 5G network at Nanki-Shirahama Airport which will be used to test several services: an intelligent maintenance service for airport staff using Microsoft HoloLens2 through a mixed reality (MR), a service that guides visitors to their destinations by coordinating multiple robots in the airport, and a service that allows visitors to experience seeing a unique airplane land in an MR space.

Nanki-Shirahama Airport faces challenges surrounding securing personnel and skilled workers due to Japan's declining working-age population caused by its falling birthrate and aging population which is causing problems in regard to maintaining the technical skills required of its staff. New tourism promotion efforts are also required to take advantage of the Nanki-Shirahama area's many tourism resources.

Therefore, the six companies decided to conduct this experiment to develop new services using advanced technologies such as local 5G, which provides high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency communications. In addition, they aim to create a highly productive and rewarding work environment in the Nanki-Shirahama area and increase the number of visitors to the area.

Guidance being passed from the first robot to the second
Provided by Nanki-Shirahama Airport, NEC

Demonstration Experiment Summary

The following verification experiments will be conducted inside the airport terminal, on the apron (where aircraft are parked), and on perimeter roads around the runway at Nanki-Shirahama Airport. The service uses fixed and portable local 5G base stations of 4.8-4.9 GHz to create a high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency local 5G network environment.

● Smart maintenance using HoloLens2

This service combines HoloLens2, NEC's patented intrusion detection technology that utilizes point cloud data, and local 5G high-capacity communication. The service ensures aircraft safety by analyzing and detecting objects, such as trees that infringe on the restricted areas created around the airfield. These results are displayed on the inspecting staff's HoloLens2 units, preventing maintenance failures.

In the past, runway surface inspections, etc., involved recording past inspections and displaying them on a PC or other device. Staff members would then search for the corresponding points based on GPS information. The new HoloLens2-based system overlays prior results in the user's field of sight, providing a quicker and more efficient method than past visual inspections.

It also helps skilled workers pass on their skills to new staff, creating a highly productive work environment.

● Visitor guidance using multiple robots

By using THK's signage robot and NEC's multiple robot cooperative control technologies, two robots share the responsibility of guiding visitors to their destinations in the airport in a cooperative and coordinated manner. After guiding visitors, the robots switch to an advertising mode using mobile digital signage.

Operators can remotely guide the robots by viewing video from onboard cameras via the stable local 5G network. This technology enables guide staff to telework, creating a rewarding work environment post-COVID.

● Experience seeing a unique airplane land in an MR space

Nanki-Shirahama Airport offers unique behind-the-scenes tours, including a close-up look at the runway and the opportunity to observe aircraft takeoffs and landings. Intending to expand the content of this tour, this new service demonstrates an entirely new experience utilizing the low latency and real-time transmission features of local 5G and MR technology.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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