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The Evolving Aviation Industry’s Use of Virtual Reality

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VR, or Virtual Reality, is among the latest technological trends that are becoming more widespread every day. It is a way of immersing ourselves or any object into a world that can be manipulated without the risk or fear involved in reality.

Once VR was developed to an extent that it could be of use to industries, it’s only natural that the aviation industry was one of the first. Flying planes is an exhilarating yet potentially dangerous experience. We need all the help we can get when testing out new aircraft or seeing if a pilot is ready for the skies.

The ways in which VR is being applied in the aviation industry are extremely useful and varied. Even commercial aircraft are now being enhanced by the use of VR simulations, along with aviation training, component design, and several other uses. We’ll discuss this in more detail below:

  1. Entertainment in the Air

vr-aviationCommercial airlines are always on the lookout to boost their services and the quality of their flying experience. This is why huge names in the aviation industry like Air France, Boeing, and Lufthansa are sinking quite a bit of cash into VR.

The most obvious use here, of course, is when airlines offer VR headsets to passengers. This way, even claustrophobic passengers and those who are afraid of flying can immerse themselves in an escape. They would be entertained in both the video and audio sense without any distractions. This technology is hence naturally coveted by both commercial airlines and private jet owners.

The VR headsets could make people think that they’re sitting in a stadium watching a sporting event or in a peaceful park enjoying nature.

With Boeing joining hands with C360 Technologies and Dolby Atmos surround sound, in-flight entertainment could be taken to the next level very quickly.

  1. Training

training-vrPilots usually have to go through extensive training before they’re deemed fit to fly any kind of aircraft. An untrained pilot could be a great danger to himself, others, and the plane itself. Before VR became something that could potentially be used, pilots had to be trained with replica cockpits and computer screens.

However, the old method required a different kind of cockpit for different kinds of aircraft training. Not only were they difficult to build, they had a very limited use. With VR technology promising several experiences with only a few additional lines of code, the aviation industry could save billions of dollars.

When training through using a VR, all a pilot-in-training would need is a headset, a joystick, and possibly a throttle.  The rest can be generated by the VR technology. This also saves a whole lot of space which can then be devoted to other activities.

An example of an aircraft simulator run on VR technology is the BISimulator by Bohemia Interactive. This has made the training of pilots much easier, adaptive, and cost-effective. Just one flying school or institute could offer training for several kinds of aircraft.

  1. Cabin Crew Training

cabin-crew-trainingIn commercial flying, pilots aren’t the only ones that need training. It’s a joint effort where the cabin crew has to know what to do in certain cases. They especially need to learn how to act in cases of hijacking, threatened crash, or a passenger falling ill.

This is why Future Visual, an innovative tech company, has come up with the VR IATA. This is a demo software that could train the crew on a plane by making them experience a virtual hangar with airport models. All the models are built to scale so that the crew can inspect everything from the inside out.

The trainees can view the systems, interact with them, and absorb all the information without having to get practical learning on the job itself.

They can learn how the door, appliances, and other features of each aircraft work.

VR technology hence can save on multiple costs, including the trips to real aircraft hangars. This also leaves the actual aircrafts free to fly whenever required. All of this can result in safer, quicker training with almost all of the risk eliminated. Since everything is happening in virtual reality, no one can actually break anything or injure themselves during training sessions.

When a crew is trained through VR technology, they would also know just what to do in the event of an emergency.

When a crash is imminent or a plane low on fuel, the element of panic can thus be minimized. This could potentially save lives and prevent huge financial losses.

  1. Ground Crew Training

ground-crew-trainingWithout a properly trained crew on the ground, a plane and its occupants could be in grave danger. This is the crew that maintains the aircraft itself, conducting its repairs and making sure it’s in optimal shape to fly.

VR technology can really come in handy here by allowing aircraft mechanics to show technicians their repairs, even if the latter are in the central office. This would enable the experts to give instructions and advice that could get the craft repaired in a better and lasting manner.

Such a need would be fulfilled by innovations similar to the Fountx headset offered by TAE Aerospace. Using this technology, the ground crew would be able to train newbies properly and also clear up any confusions and permissions in a matter of minutes.

  1. The Engineering Factor

vr-engineeringTechnology like VR and 3D printing are excellent for teaching and experimenting within safe environments. Aviation engineers, for instance, may not get much practical learning without VR. They would have to wait for some complex structure to become available for them to study. They may not even get a chance to observe a certain aircraft up close unless it required some repairs.

Jet engines, turboprops, and other rare aircraft may not even be easily procured for aviation engineers to study in the course of a whole study career. With VR in the mix, though, aviation engineers in training could view such structures and learn how best to manipulate them. The same goes for pilots, who can easily learn how to interact with the aircraft they would be expected to fly later on.

Pratt & Whitney is one example of a tech company that has given a lot of resources for developing training tools in VR. They can thus offer simulations where users can walk inside or around a jet engine. There is even a view that allows jet parts to be studied individually. This can greatly save on the cost and risk of dissembling a real jet engine.

As expected, VR in aviation engineering can make everything go much faster and more efficiently.

The learning process could be available to engineers around the clock, much like biologists and chemists have access to their labs.

  1. Phobia Treatment

Flying phobias of various kinds are much more widespread than many expect. Around one in five people have some sort of fear of flying, according to the tests and studies. The statistics that say deaths by airplane crashes are much less frequent or likely than accidents on the ground have done little to counter such phobias.

With the world becoming more of a global village with every passing day, there are several reasons why a fear of flying is not practical. In this day and age, we have to be ready to board any transportation and get to our destination as soon as possible. VR technology could really help out with providing the much-needed treatment for such phobic individuals.

We’ve already mentioned the possibility of flying fears being allayed by immersive VR entertainment in-flight. However, there are several people who may simply have trouble boarding a plane, or who refuse to even consider the possibility of flying.

For such serious cases, psychiatrists could recommend immersing an individual into a VR experience where they can practice getting on a plane.

By practicing the moment they actively fear, many folks can overcome their hesitation. This would enable them to take the plane more often and be better able to benefit from the many conveniences of flying as transport.

Along with immersive techniques VR technology like the one at the Virtual Reality Medical Center can study phobias in a safe setting. They can place phobic people in the VR world and note the responses they give. In this manner, they may be able to move closer to determining the actual cause of anxiety and how one may best treat it.

Conclusion:

Virtual Reality, especially when combined with augmented reality, (AR), can make a lot of aviation aspects within easy reach. It’s much easier and cheaper to teach and learn within this industry when we have access to such technologies. Plus, the commercial, public, and private aspects of flying all benefit from the integration of VR with the aviation industry.

Not surprisingly, VR stands to become a huge part of the aviation industry in the near future. It can not only help with the education part of aviation but also with individual, personal problems such as phobias and anxiety disorders. We’re fast approaching a world where everyone can easily fly to their destinations, and VR is going to help us prepare for it!

Reference Links:

http://www.aircharterservice.ca/about-us/news-features/blog/virtual-reality-and-aviation
http://www.aviationtoday.com/2017/08/24/9-companies-using-augmented-virtual-reality-aviation/