AR and VR are among the latest tech trends sweeping across many industries, like gaming, education and tourism. These technologies pave the way for users to become transported and immersed into different spaces without any physical circumstance involved.
One of many industries that is embracing these technologies is the aviation industry. The immersive aspects of both AR and VR are now being used to address some of the potential dangers associated with flying.
From building planes and training pilots, all the way to the in-flight experience, AR and VR can enable a safer and more effective testing, training and flying experience. It therefore makes sense for the aviation industry to incorporate AR and VR into the various procedures and systems.
Here are some of the ways both AR and VR are being used in aviation:
Pilots have to undergo extensive hours of training using flight simulators and computer screens. Boeing, for instance, uses real airplane cockpits that are stripped from the plane body itself and geared with movie screens to simulate actual flight.
These flight simulators may have proven to be effective throughout the years, but they are quite expensive and bulky professional training devices.
Aside from that, airports are usually too busy for pilot training to be prioritized. Hence, real-environment training is usually time consuming and resource-intensive for the aviation industry.
Virtual reality eyewear and related devices allow more features to be incorporated just by inputting specific codes. In fact, all possible scenarios that could happen in the real environment of the airport could be presented virtually.
This gives trainees a chance to practice real-life procedures without having to use an actual aircraft and airport, which increases the quality of training and decreases the costs.
Bohemia Interactive Simulations, a global developer of simulation and training systems, created the BISim – a VR flight simulator that uses Oculus Rift CV1 headset, D-Box Motion Cueing System and a Vesaro simulator to provide a vivid and highly immersive virtual environment. With such a software, pilot training across different kinds of aircraft can happen even without traditional simulators made of real cockpit parts.
Ground Crew Training
For any plane to be able to take off and land safely, a skilled crew on the ground is critical. They are the people who maintain the aircraft itself and ensure that it is in perfect condition to fly.
If VR is used for pilots’ in-flight simulation training, AR technology can be used but for the ground crew. For instance, aircraft engineers can use augmented reality glasses in simulating and testing installation processes. Meanwhile, maintenance crew can benefit from interactive inspection instructions, virtual arrows and labels.
The University of Bologna conducted a case study where a prototype AR system was developed to provide an animated and marker-free representation of the aircraft parts to be checked. Results indicate that the AR system helped the crew perform specific tasks by emulating what was displayed and following the step-by-step guide incorporated in the system.
Using augmented reality eyewear, aviation ground crew can perform the job without the risk of error that could seriously impact lives.
Even though flying is the safest form of transport – only 1 in 11 million chances for a crash – there are still safety issues when it comes to commercial aviation. According to Boeing, almost half of all fatal accidents usually occur during a plane’s takeoff and landing.
AR technology can potentially lessen the risk in both instances. It can enhance the pilot’s ability to access current details like terrain, navigation, traffic, and weather alongside safety information like emergency, pre-flight, in-flight and landing checklists.
Aero Glass is one interesting example. Using self-contained smart glasses to create an augmented reality view of the horizon for pilots, the intuitive format and 360-degree display allows pilots to visualize vital airspace information without the need to check multiple screens and inspecting instruments.
The project received a grant from European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, and programs like Airbus BizLab and Boeing Horizon X have recognized its potential, although launching it within these companies is yet to be finalized.
The benefits of using VR during training and aircraft assembly are quite immense, but many airlines are veering towards using these technologies to upscale the quality of in-flight experience for customers.
It should come as no surprise that VR headsets are being offered to passengers. Air France, Joon and Japan Airlines partnered with SkyLights and two major production names – 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks – to offer virtual reality headsets as an alternative in-flight option for passengers. Connected to an individual’s seat, it features high-definition screen and diopter correction, automatically adjusting to the user’s eyes.
Although such technology can provide entertainment, those who find flying unbearable can also immerse themselves within the VR world and have a more comfortable flight experience overall.
Given how flexible AR and VR can be, both technologies can disrupt the world of aviation. With their potential and proven impact on training, safety and entertainment, AR and VR will certainly be commercial flight requisites in the not-so-distant future.