Are VR flight simulators the future of pilot training?

Are VR flight simulators the future of pilot training?December 16, 2019

Are VR flight simulators the future of pilot training?
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Flight simulators have been used to train pilots for more than 80 years. During this time there have been many innovations in aviation technology. Now Virtual Reality (VR) heralds a new era in professional pilot training.


For almost a century, all pilots, from the air force to commercial flights and private jets, have been trained in flight simulators. The new technology of virtual reality will definitely change the future of pilot training.  VR pilot training systems can make flight training more affordable and thus reduce costs. These systems can also be used for training mechanics.


Today’s flight simulators


A flight simulator is usually created by cutting off the tip of an aircraft. Of decisive importance is the faithful reproduction of the cockpit, such as flight control, flight instruments and interaction with the simulation programs. The cockpit is mounted on a hexapod platform that allows the upper part of the aircraft to move almost anywhere in space according to the six degrees of freedom. In addition, video displays are installed that show the pilots a runway or a landscape.


Using flight simulators pilots can train like in a real aircraft cockpit. Hundreds of thousands of flights all over the world can be simulated. A further advantage of the simulators is that kerosene is saved and aircraft wear is reduced. Emergency situations and system failures can also be simulated without endangering passengers.


However, flight simulators are huge and weigh several tons. The acquisition costs and operating costs are extremely high. It is even more expensive if a new aircraft model is introduced and the old model has to be disposed of.


Even so, Panamedia International Flight School has decided to invest in an Airbus 320 Neo simulator of the latest generation to complete the preparation of their students using the latest and most advanced technology allowing its students to prepare for the Type Rating course for the Airbus 320.


Is VR pilot training more effective?


The aviation industry does not yet agree on the effectiveness of training pilots with Virtual Reality. Some believe that nothing on the market can replace the proven flight simulator. Since it is important for pilots to train in a real cockpit where they can reach for their oxygen mask when the cockpit fills with smoke and feel the light vibrations of the aircraft on a real cockpit seat.

There is currently no evidence that virtual reality is a better alternative to physical simulators, but this will certainly change in the future.


The future of VR pilot training


Over the past ten years, VR technology has become a cornerstone of the video game industry. In 2016, more than 230 companies manufactured VR products, including well-known brands such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. In May 2018, Facebook unveiled the Oculus half-dome prototype, a pair of VR glasses with a multifocus display and a 140-degree field of view.


Current VR technology uses headsets or multi-projection environments that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment. Force feedback devices can even transmit vibrations and other sensations to the user. These technological advances in the virtual world have led the Air Force to use this technology as part of its training system. This innovation is also used as an alternative to video tutorials. A chief pilot instructor from an Australian aviation company worked with a production studio to create a virtual experience that teaches pilots the basics of flying with a smartphone and a mobile VR headset.

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