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Startup Airion™ Designs a Respirator with AR Capabilities for U.S. Air Force Challenge with the Help of Librestream
Read our exclusive interview with Airion Co-Founder Cam Chidiac to find out more about their cutting-edge product, ACER™, and why they turned to Librestream to integrate our technologies into it.
Aircraft fuel maintenance requires personnel to enter fuel tanks where many environmental hazards exist. Often, fuel maintainers are tasked with completing hazardous tasks with antiquated industrial respirators that lack modern communication capabilities, proper ergonomics, and updated filtration cartridges. Seeing this as an opportunity to innovate the industrial respirator, California start-up Airion designed the Advanced Communication Enabled Respirator (ACER) to meet modern aircraft fuel maintainers’ needs.
We had the opportunity to interview Cam Chidiac, Airion‘s Co-Founder, to find out more about this innovative and advanced respirator. Read our exclusive interview here.
Q: We want to start this interview by congratulating you on being selected as a dual US Air Force AFWERX Challenge finalist and a SOFWERX AIM Viper Respirator Challenge finalist! Tell us more about that.
Thank you! Yes, the AFWERX Challenge is a program led by the U.S. Air Force to find solutions to specific challenges by turning to individuals, academics, research labs, and businesses. We participated in the Integrated Respirator Information System (IRIS) challenge and the SOFWERX AIM Viper Respirator Challenge. Both USSOCOM and the USAF sought to develop a respirator with audio and visual capabilities for improved safety, communication, and effectiveness for the Warfighter and its maintainers who work in hazardous and confined areas. There were over 49 submissions in the IRIS Challenge, and we were one of a handful of finalists selected for the public showcase.
Q: What led you to start Airion and design ACER?
Airion was created with a desire to solve complex problems for the U.S. Armed Forces and the private sector using advanced North American technologies. Our team combines decades of experience in 3D design, rapid prototyping, advanced manufacturing, military support services and global product distribution.
We partner with inventors, universities, U.S. National Laboratories and private companies to help bring game-changing technologies like ACER to market. One wearable that lacked modernization in the defense industry is communication-enabled respirators for the US Warfighter and its maintainer teams.
The industrial respirator has seen minimal innovation since the 1930s and is mostly manufactured outside of North America. Recently, the defense sector endeavored to improve wireless communications by retrofitting respirators for its fuel maintainers with Bluetooth connectivity. However, these ad-hoc attempts at respirator innovation have not met the challenges faced by today’s connected workforce. Simply put, traditional manufacturers were unable to digitize this critical wearable in a way that ensured enhanced communication between field technicians and their support teams during arduous repairs in tight and explosively hazardous spaces.
The ACER is the only patented industrial full-face respirator system that integrates wireless communications and charging, a heads-up display, voice-activation, ionic thermal control, active filtration, multifunctional nanomaterials as well as advanced hearing, speech and noise suppression technologies. This advanced respirator integrates some of the world’s leading technologies to enable smarter decision making, a safer work environment, and seamless collaborative experiences for teams working both on-and-off fields. The original research and design for the ACER comes from East Carolina University, where professors understood the need for farmers, medical workers, industrial maintainers and the military to be able to communicate more effectively while wearing a full-face respirator.
Q: You mentioned working with the world’s leading technologies. Can you name some of your partners and how you chose them?
The ACER creates a uniquely safe and immersive experience for technicians performing routine maintenance and repair tasks in some of the deadliest environments. So, we individually partnered with providers with a proven track record in helping workforces thrive in these conditions. They include Librestream, Silvus, Sensear, Chironix, DeployX, Cornax and Stress Engineering Services.
Each of our partners play a critical role in ensuring our product delivers on its promise of assisting field workers in far from ideal conditions. For example, one reason we partnered with Librestream because their Cube-Ex wearable held a competitive edge over others in their industry. Their wearable equipped with the #1 remote expert solution is a Zone 1, Class 1, Div 1 device designed for rugged, hazardous environments.
Q: That’s a very innovative way of using Librestream’s Cube-Ex. How do you think this technology will improve user experience?
Traditionally, the Cube-Ex was used as a handheld or helmet-mounted device. ACER is the first respirator that is designed to integrate Librestream’s Cube-Ex in the field. Using the intrinsically safe Cube-Ex wearable camera, field technicians and maintenance workers can access the Onsight platform for hands-free HD visual capture capabilities while performing inspections, audits, diagnostics, training, and maintenance work. The Cube-Ex also offers access to Librestream’s leading remote expert platform, Onsight Connect.
By attaching Cube-Ex to ACER and leveraging Librestream’s Onsight augmented worker platform, industrial users in hazardous environments can record and access audio and video in real-time while being personally protected from airborne threats. The addition of an optional voice-activated HUD (heads-up display) inside ACER provides a secondary camera perspective for Onsight as well as a visual heads-up display giving users an additional screen to project repair instructions, access manuals, air quality readings and health alerts.
Q: Finally, can you share any big wins for Airion this year? Any predictions on the future of critical workforces you’d like to share with us?
Perhaps the achievement we’re most proud of this year is being selected as a finalist on two AFWERX challenges, including winning a US Air Force prize for human systems design innovation. Also, we were thrilled to work with Librestream on their recent selection for the upcoming “Just-In Time Multi-Mission Warfighter” event hosted by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office (RRTO), Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Librestream’s selection in the top 10% out of over 300 submissions signifies that your smart collaboration technologies are of timely importance to DoD maintenance teams. It has become evident to us that there is an increasing need for appropriate North American manufactured technologies that support the US Warfighter and their maintenance teams subjected to arduous work in challenging environments like an aircraft fuel tank.
Workforces are evolving. It is critical that small, nimble US organizations like ours take the lead on accelerating technological advancements to better meet tomorrow’s critical industrial workforce’s needs. With expertise from our partners like Librestream, we are certain that we will be able to empower field technicians in the world’s toughest environments and for the most demanding enterprises. We are excited to be on the frontlines of these advancements!
Thank you for joining us, Cam. We are very proud to be partnering with an innovative organization like Airion and look forward to advancing the defense workforce together.
To learn more about ACER, please visit: https://www.airion.dev/acer-ex
If you have questions about Librestream’s solution or wearables, please contact a member of our team today!