• Aero

collision avoidance


The painting of airliners is done by skilled artisans who need to work quickly and accurately. As they work, they travel along the plane on movable platforms. They get very close to the plane, but the platforms must never be allowed to collide with the aircraft. An existing collision avoidance system had a few frustrating limitations, so the aerospace company hired Concept Systems to develop a better solution.


Client: Aerospace Company

Project duration: About 12 months

Client: 1 engineer
Concept Systems: 2 engineers

Concept Systems’ time on site: About 60 days for first hangar; about 20 days each for two subsequent hangars


The problem

To paint each airliner, a crew of painters moves along the plane on eight moveable platforms that are controlled by the painters themselves. But the movement of the platforms must be constrained to prevent them from ever colliding with the plane. The client’s previous collision-avoidance system used a very coarse 3-D virtualization of the plane that sometimes prevented painters from moving the platform exactly where they wanted it. Additionally, when a new airplane model came into production, the painting hangar would be out of service for several days to update the system.

The solution

Concept Systems integrated various existing technologies to build an efficient automated collision-avoidance system. One of the breakthroughs was finding software developed at the University of North Carolina called the Proximity Query Package, which can detect approaching collisions between two different computer-generated objects. Integrated with Open Graphics Library and the client’s own design software, the system can build precise virtual representations of the situation in the painting hangar at any moment and then make complex decisions about what platform movements are allowed.

The results

Because the virtual representations of the aircraft surfaces are extremely accurate, the problems that had plagued the old system and caused painters to lose time through unexpected movement limitations have been eliminated. With the new system, the time needed to accommodate a new plane design was more than cut in half, now requiring only one day for all three hangars. Interaction between any stacker platform and the aircraft can be viewed on a computer screen in real time. And the system is easier for the client to update, as well, to account for changes to stacker platforms, for instance.