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RealWear enables remote nuclear plant inspection

Augmented reality headsets from RealWear have been deployed by TÜV SÜD for certifying technical systems during the pandemic

TÜV SÜD, the German-headquartered provider of safety, security and sustainability services, has deployed RealWear augmented reality (AR) headsets to help in remote inspection of nuclear power plant components. TÜV SÜD is using the devices – running remote expert support software Oculavis Share – to enable remote test, inspection and certification of technical systems and facilities to minimise hazards and prevent damage. 

TÜV SÜD’s nuclear power and decommissioning business line, which employs about 500 experts, has been providing support to the nuclear industry and innovating within the nuclear science field for more than 50 years. Under its remit, the division is tasked with inspecting the components for nuclear plants, their overall operations and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. The division continually inspects power plants and facilities throughout their lifecycle.

Christoph Gatzen, who heads up the inspection body at TÜV SÜD and is also responsible for electrical, control and IT, said: “Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, technical qualification of nuclear equipment around the world had to be done in person. But when Covid-19 started, there were a lot of travel restrictions, but we still needed  to fulfil contracts.”

Gatzen said the company started assessing what technology was available and using AR. “Our group evaluated the latest technology and the first choice was RealWear in combination with a software platform that offered safe data communications,” he added.

The platform TÜV SÜD decided to use was Oculavis Share on RealWear’s AR headset. This enabled the company to offer remote inspection services during the pandemic.

TÜV SÜD  was able to use global experts working in conjunction with local on-site inspectors wearing RealWear’s HMT-1, allowing them to monitor and coordinate an inspection from anywhere in the world. The HMT-1 also enables videos and pictures to be taken by the wearer and shared with an expert.

Since deploying the technology, TÜV SÜD said its nuclear business has seen significant benefits. A recent project using remote collaboration saved seven intercontinental flights alone. The cost and environmental benefits for both TÜV SÜD and the end customer were significant, saving about 11 hours of travel time and €4,000 per flight.

“We don’t need to fly two to three people to visit a site,” said Gatzen. Instead, the company can use its engineers remotely.

“If a machine with mechanical and electrical parts requires two engineers for an inspection, RealWear enables us to use one local engineer and two experts, who sit remotely, and coordinate with the local engineer wearing the RealWear headset,” he said.

This can save money and travel time and helps to lower the company’s carbon footprint, he added. The technology has also offered safety benefits in that it can be operated hands-free, ensuring that the wearer is not distracted while carrying out an inspection.

Gatzen said the response to the pandemic offered TÜV SÜD a way to accelerate existing processes around inspections. Along with reduced air travel, the company can use its experts in a more effective way, he said. “It is a big change in mindset,” he added, pointing out that AR means inspections can be shared with more experts within the company.

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