Discover the innovative ways virtual and augmented reality are being used to transform aviation, from in-flight entertainment to pilot training to treating fear of flying.

Virtual reality and aviation

Discover the innovative ways virtual and augmented reality are being used to transform aviation, from in-flight entertainment to pilot training to treating fear of flying.

In-flight entertainment

Due to the fast growth of the virtual reality (VR) market since 2016, aircraft manufacturers and airlines such as Boeing, Lufthansa and Air France are investing heavily in VR in aviation. The way VR allows the user to become completely immersed in a virtual space has easily translatable benefits to aircraft passengers; VR headsets offer an audiovisual escape within a confined space. In the private jet sector, funding has been pumped into VR equipment, as evidenced with Embraer’s 360 degree interactive cabin photos. With all this investment, you can be sure that VR in aviation will make its way into private aircraft charters in the near future.

Boeing is investing into bringing immersive interactive VR to their customers by funding the tech firm C360 Technologies’ headset. C360’s innovation uses the latest in streaming technology to give their VR headset-wearer 360 degree vision of live sporting events or other omnidirectionally filmed content. When coupled with Dolby Atmos surround sound, a Boeing customer could feel as if they were seated not in an aircraft cabin, but in the best seat in a stadium or hovering above a racetrack.

Lufthansa has also invested heavily in VR in aviation for VIP customers, most recently with their custom interior Airbus A350. Their goal to create an immersive entertainment system that frees the passenger from their noisy environment is served perfectly by VR, providing everyone in the cabin with a personal digital escape.

Aviation training

A large commercial airplane cockpit trainer with a simulated runway behind
A large commercial airplane cockpit trainer with a simulated runway behind

In the early stages of pilot training before trainees are allowed to fly a plane, they typically learn in replica cockpits with computer screens in the “windows” displaying a simulated external world. With a replica cockpit needed for each type of aircraft, this kind of training is both expensive and inflexible.

Virtual reality aircraft simulators, such as Bohemia Interactive’s BISimulator, make pilot training more cost-effective and adaptable. With a VR headset, a joystick and a throttle, an unlimited number of cockpits can be generated without the need to build replicas. This reduces cost and required space, and enables one school or facility to provide training for more than just a handful of aircraft. As even the best aviation courses offer simulation cockpits numbering in the single digits, VR simulation is set to revolutionize pilot training.

VR headsets are also useful for training cabin crew. Tech company Future Visual has developed the VR IATA training demo software, which creates an interactive virtual hangar containing to-scale aircraft models. Jets can be inspected outside and in, with the trainee able to view, interact with and gain more information on the various systems, doors and appliances of each aircraft. This technology saves time and money, saving multiple trips to an actual aircraft hangar and the trouble of finding the specific aircraft you wish to train in.

Ground crew have benefitted hugely from virtual reality headsets, too. For instance, TAE Aerospace’s Fountx headset allows on-site mechanics to broadcast their repair live to technicians in a central office, who are provided with an augmented reality view of the aircraft and can provide minute-to-minute instructions. The training simulation from Future Visual can also be used to train ground crew in repairing aircraft systems.

Aviation engineering and systems

A military jet plane rotor under heavy maintenance
A military jet plane rotor under heavy maintenance

In addition to training opportunities, VR allows aviation engineers to easily manipulate and view complex structures such as jet engines and turboprops, while pilots are able to interact more effectively with their equipment.

With Aero Glass’ augmented reality glasses, pilots can view instrument panel information such as altitude and speed without looking down at the physical instruments. The glasses also highlight important terrain details such as potential hazards, give a visualization of the aircraft’s flight-plan and highlight key features such as the landing strip, improving visibility in poor conditions.

Technology company Pratt & Whitney have made significant investments into virtual reality training tools for aviation mechanics and engineers. Their simulations allow the user to walk around – or even inside – a jet engine, offering an “exploded view” so that individual parts can be examined without having to disassemble the entire engine. In this way, virtual reality offers a cheaper, faster way for customers to learn how to repair an engine.

Treatment for flying phobia

An estimated 10-20% of people are afraid of flying, and a significant number will avoid planes even if they offer the most convenient mode of transport. Therapists now use virtual reality headsets to deal with many different phobias, with companies like the Virtual Reality Medical Center and Michael Carthy using VR simulations to treat fear of flying. Placing a patient in a virtual plane and monitoring their responses helps therapists ascertain which part of the flying experience causes anxiety and how best to treat it.

Virtual and augmented reality not only make the aviation industry more accessible and easier to teach for those planning to become pilots, engineers or mechanics, they also help those suffering from fear of flying to fight their phobia, allowing more people to fly. Add this to the entertainment potential that this new technology is bringing to the aircraft cabin and VR looks set to transform commercial and private aviation.

If you’re interested in experiencing the cutting-edge of aviation, arrange a private jet charter with Air Charter Service.

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