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Employees improve UAV Reset process

Oct 28, 2009

By Jennifer Caprioli (Tobyhanna Army Depot)

TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. - Tobyhanna employees are improving the unmanned aerial vehicle system Reset process.

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems include aircraft that fly without a human crew and can carry cameras, sensors or communications equipment. The systems also consist of shelters and Humvees, generators, air conditioning units and a launcher trailer.

Since 2005, depot employees have Reset 45 systems.

When a UAV system comes to Tobyhanna to be Reset, employees in the Systems Integration and Support (SIS) Directorate's Assembly Branch perform an evaluation and inspection. This includes looking for missing parts and torn or missing straps, damage (inside and outside), and documenting issues such as holes in the floor, or caved-in sides of the shelter, which occur from transportation or wear and tear in the field.

Systems come to Tobyhanna from Southwest Asia, Europe and Korea from Army, Navy and Marine Corps units.

"During the past year we were working on up to three UAV systems at one time; sometimes they were coming in every two weeks," says Scott Andrews, sheet metal mechanic in the branch, noting that they have a four-week turnaround time for each system.

Tom Hooper, production controller, explains that the program is successful due to some of the Reset process improvements they have implemented in the past four years.

"It's hard to keep on schedule because the system goes to so many different shops," he says. "Just about every shop in SIS have their hands on it."

To help with scheduling, they began using radio frequency identification, which tracks assets throughout the support shops.

"The new routes will make it easier to track four-week repair cycle time and where the asset is through the Logistics Modernization Program because they [can see on a computerized schedule] where it is and should be," Hooper explains.

He and Andrews note that personnel are also trying to increase communication and coordination among employees.

"Communication is important between shops, [Assembly] Branch employees and production controllers," Andrews explains.

"The better the job we do and the sooner we get it out means the sooner it gets back over there for the [troops] to use,' notes Dave Repecki, sheet metal mechanic in the branch.

Mechanics dissemble the system and put the parts into shadow boxes. Shadow boxes were implemented in 2008 to help employees keep track of the UAV system's parts.

"Shadow boxes make it visible when there's a missing part, and we note if a part is not there so support shops won't be looking for it," Andrews explains. The parts are placed into designated slots, then sent to support shops to be overhauled, which includes sandblasting and painting.

After the stripped shelter goes through the overhaul process in SIS support shops, it is returned to Building 3 where Assembly Branch mechanics assemble the overhauled shadow box parts and work with electricians to repopulate a refurbished shelter.

Mechanics also work with personnel to install canvas and leather. It takes about a week to repopulate each system's multiple shelters.

"If we don't have these (UAVs) in the air, then we have to send troops in. This saves lives," Hooper explains, noting that the system is considered high priority in the field.

Andrews agrees, explaining "one of the most important parts for me is that the system is saving troops over there."

Hooper says Tobyhanna is anticipating receipt of up-armored Humvees in this fiscal year. "They will be a little different, but it's nothing that we can't do," he says.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.

About 5,600 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command. Headquartered at Fort Monmouth, N.J., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.

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