Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Solutions for the Aviation Industry
VR/AR technology is evolving at a rapid rate and it is proving to be a powerful game-changer from every aspect. As a result, many diverse industries are now readily experimenting with this immersive technology to streamline their operations, improve capabilities, and train staff in a better way.
Given the expensive nature of the aviation industry and the high cost of making mistakes, Virtual reality has now become a great asset for aviation companies to provide better service and train their staff in a more accurate way.
In the years 2017, 2018, and 2019, there have been 59, 561, and 287 deaths respectively due to airline crashes and failures. While the fatalities due to airplanes have significantly reduced in the last 50 years, making airline travel one of the safest modes of transportation, there is still a long way to go. By improving training practices of the airline crew, VR technology can make the aviation industry safer, at reduced costs.
In this article, we will discuss how Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is transforming the aviation industry and helping the aviation industry in many ways.
VR/AR in Aviation: Main use cases
Virtual Reality training can provide airlines and ground handlers a safe environment to learn and enhance their aircraft inspection skills. Virtual Reality (VR) for Aircraft inspection enables training on various conditions of aircraft inspection on all types of aircrafts so as to eliminate any possibilities of a failure during operation. The headset puts teams on a visual airside and allows them to interact with virtual replicas of aircrafts and conduct a visual inspection of a virtual aircraft on a cargo bay or an apron.
Cabin crew training
Cabin crew staff aren’t just responsible for ensuring all the passengers are comfortable, but they are also responsible for ensuring safety. Before the take-off, cabin crew is expected to ensure all the equipment like flashlights, extinguishers, and life vests are present in the aircraft and working well. They are required to monitor the cabin for any smoke and suspicious passenger behavior. Moreover, flight attendants also need to demonstrate all the safety instructions before they take off.
By substituting classroom training with VR training, cabin crew can learn how to handle difficult real-life situations like medical emergencies, an imminent crash or hijacking through a virtual environment.
With the immersive VR technology, your cabin crew staff are able to make mistakes in virtual training and learn from them, which directly leads to better on-site job performance.
Flight deck training
The flight deck crew majorly includes the pilot and copilot who sit in the airplane cockpit. VR part task trainers help familiarize the flight deck crew with the cockpit and train them on the necessary skills needed to react quickly and handle even the most difficult situations. With a virtual environment and head-mounted display (HMDs), pilots can familiarize themselves with the cockpit controls and different scenarios they might face while flying.
With the steady growth and advancements of virtual reality, airlines like Air France and Lufthansa are now using VR to offer immersive entertainment to passengers.
It’s normal for people to feel discomfort while flying due to other passengers talking loudly, babies crying, or just the standard aircraft noise. This can in turn make relaxing and unwinding down a big struggle for many. While putting on headphones can help cancel out the noise, it’s not always easy to ignore your surroundings which can be very tiring for passengers flying long distances.
However, a VR head-mounted display along with headphones can give passengers the perfect escape to relax and take a breather even in a completely packed flight. With the help of VR, passengers can watch dreamscapes to help them sleep better or even the last football match they missed in a completely 360-degree video.
Aircraft maintenance and MRO training
With virtual reality and Augmented Reality, it becomes possible for aircraft mechanics and MRO technicians to learn to inspect different parts of the aircraft even without leaving their desks. One of the largest manufacturers of aircrafts: Airbus is using the VR technology through its portable RHEA kit which comes with a virtual reality headset, touchpads and infrared cameras that allow its mechanics to inspect and repair aircrafts in a completely immersive environment.
Technological advancements in VR/ AR that are helping the aviation industry
Aviation engineering and mechanics
It is expected that the number of passengers taking flights every day will double by 2036. In order to accommodate this exponential growth fleet of aircraft in the next 15 years, airline companies need to train more mechanics and engineers than ever.
Given the expensive and complex nature of the aircraft, most aviation engineers and mechanics do not get enough practical learning. After all, it’s not always an easy feat to get real parts of an aircraft for classroom training purposes. In many cases, engineers and mechanics only get to see an airplane up close and work on it when they are already out on the field when even the smallest mistakes can lead to huge problems.
With VR, it becomes possible to bridge this gap and give aviation engineers as well as mechanics enough opportunities to learn about the complex workings of an aircraft.
Piloting a plane is one of the most difficult, dangerous, and demanding jobs in the world. Even the smallest of mistakes while flying can lead to huge losses of life and money. Of course, most training pilots aren’t allowed to directly take an actual plane and go experiment with it.
That is why new pilots first need to practice flying on the ground through a simulator in order to get comfortable with all the features of the airplane before taking off and leaving the ground.
But traditional flight simulators used in pilot training can cost upwards of $4.5 million. On the other hand, VR flight training simulators cost over $1,000 per unit — and they can help pilots practice with a wide range of cockpits all at the same time. Not only does it lead to pilot training programs being able to afford more simulators for better training but it also helps train more pilots in less time.
According to Boeing, almost half of all fatal accidents happen during a plane’s takeoff or landing. Augmented reality (AR) technology can reduce the risks by enhancing the pilots’ ability to access details like terrain, navigation, traffic and weather. AR can also superimpose safety information like emergency checklists on the panels.
Examples of Companies using VR/AR in aviation
Celebi Aviation Holding
As part of its focus on learning and development Celebi Aviation Holding set up an Aviation Academy in Turkey with VR solutions from Tecknotrove to train its operators on Aircraft Inspection. Unlike traditional learning experiences, the Virtual Reality training module places the user inside a virtual airside environment to learn and interact with a virtual aircraft. The VR module enables training in multiple scenarios such as emergency situations, night operations, etc. which could be difficult to replicate in a real-life training setting on the apron.
The Leading airlines from Qatar is using VR training for multiple applications including line maintenance teams, training cabin crews and ground handlers. The VR training is helping Qatar Airways to move from instructor-driven training programs to learner driven training programs. Tecknotrove developed a custom built airside environment for Qatar Airways with a wide range of virtual aircrafts from Boeing and Airbus to enable training in a highly realistic virtual environment so as to reduce the training time and cost.
Lufthansa uses VR technology for in-flight entertainment purposes by offering its passengers a 360-degree immersive video viewing experience while traveling. The German airline also uses VR in order to encourage more customers to upgrade their seats from economy class to business class by showing them the 360-degree video of what it is like to fly in business class.
SIA Engineering Company
SIA Engineering (SIAEC) is among the largest independent MRO. The company is heavily investing in next generation training aids, including virtual reality solutions that can simulate actual on-ground scenarios within a safe and controlled environment. The company is using technology to train its pushback operators, baggage handlers, airside drivers and line maintenance teams to improve the safety and the aircraft turnaround times.
Air France is offering immersive entertainment to its passengers through head-mounted displays and VR videos. By partnering with SkyLights, Air France has created a special headset for passengers that fly on its Airbus A340.
SATS introduced the augmented reality technology to their 600 employees at the Singapore Changi Airport. With the help of these AR glasses, the ramp handling workers can scan QR codes placed on cargo containers to see the baggage loading instructions (flight number, placement location, etc.) in real time. SATS estimates that the loading time for an average twin-aisle jetliner will shorten by 15 minutes per flight because workers won’t have to use paper and will always know what goes where thanks to AR.
Japan Airlines (JAL) uses VR technology to provide better training to their aviation mechanics and improve their skills. The VR training simulation programs help mechanics and maintenance engineers to get more familiar with the engine’s run-up procedure in a virtual and yet very realistic environment. Moreover, aviation mechanics also get the opportunity to test their knowledge in different scenarios, identify their mistakes, and work on them.
Future of VR/AR in the aviation industry
It is estimated that the virtual reality and augmented reality market in aviation will grow by over $1372 million by the end of 2025 with a compound annual growth rate of 61.2 percent.
VR in the aviation industry is clearly here to stay. Companies that readily adopt it will stay ahead of the curve. Whereas, companies that do not leverage VR at the right time risk falling behind their competition.
One of Asia’s leading companies in developing Customized Simulators, Augmented Reality Solutions , Virtual Reality Solutions and Gamified Training Solutions for industry and government , Tecknotrove Systems offers customized virtual training solutions and Augmented Reality solutions for the aviation industry. To know more on how the company can help your organization with custom-built programs for training contact them here.