As the first 110-footlong wing skin panel for Boeing’s new 777X jet moved slowly across a mammoth new Everett factory building one morning earlier this month, a small crew walked alongside, watching for any possibility of an expensive collision.
The “spotters” escorted the panel’s bright-orange transport platform as it followed invisible tracks embedded in the concrete floor and slid with a tight fit into the big cylindrical autoclave where the part would bake to hardness.
Until the automated system for moving these big wing parts is proved, “we do have four people watching it,” said Darrell Chic, acting director of 777X wing fabrication. “But the intent is to work our way to autonomous and allow the navigation system to do its thing.”
Autonomous. Not needing any humans to guide it.