Air Force Creates 3D Digital Twin Using 3D Laser Scanning Services

Tyndall Air Force Base

By using 3D digital twin modeling and 3D laser scanning services, Tyndall hopes to build a more secure and intelligent base.

In order to transform Tyndall Air Force Base into a 21st-century “smart” installation, a small piece of technology could have a significant impact. As a result of Hurricane Michael’s devastation in late 2018, the Florida Panhandle’s fighter jet base is scanning its structures and the remaining grounds in three dimensions.

Reconstruction officials at Tyndall’s office of integration division chief Lowell Usrey told the Air Force Times that laser measurements were taken by a team using high-tech cameras and a “cool backpack” equipped with GPS-enabled radars (to map out the interior and exterior layout of the base’s buildings, roads, and runways). Scanners will be used to create a 3D image known as a “digital twin” of the base, using existing blueprints and geographic data.

3D Laser Scanning Services in Action

In a $10 million, three-year prototyping agreement with Booz Allen Hamilton and Virginia-based Ares Security, the United States Air Force is working with these two companies to get the 3D scanning services concept working.

Most importantly, the group is creating digital models of the flight line area, which will house three F-35A Lightning II fighter jets beginning in 2023 and possible future aircraft like the MQ-9 Reaper drone. Another high priority for the Air Force is to map the facilities of the mission support group to see how the critical mechanical infrastructure might be affected by yet another major storm.

It’s becoming more commonplace for the Air Force to use “digital twin” technology for things like testing aircraft upgrades without having to build a physical prototype.

An interactive digital twin can be used to simulate hurricane scenarios and prepare for the real thing. Besides disaster planning, there is a wide range of applications. For example, a digital blueprint could be fed into virtual-reality goggles that show repair crews where problems arise inside a wall. In addition to providing information on how Tyndall utilizes energy and water, it could also model the number of fighter jets parked along the flight line.

This center could be particularly useful to security personnel, who would need precise information about the layout of the base to respond to a breach.

An Army engineer serving as the rebuild effort’s science and technology adviser said that a digital twin would also help Tyndall’s various fighter and weapons testing missions remain operational in the midst of a nearly $5 billion reconstruction project over the next few years.

The laser scan model can be used to look at how the base might operate in the near and distant future and to better understand the base’s transition into a fully functional installation. In addition, the digital twin can be updated as infrastructure changes by rescanning the workers.

Airmen at Tyndall are expected to begin using digital twins within 18 months to two years, according to the program’s schedule. Because of this, they’re hoping to set a good example for other interested bases, like Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, so that the technology can eventually be used across the military.


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