VR IN THE WORK­PLACE

From in­flight en­ter­tain­ment to train­ing so­lu­tions, air­lines are us­ing aug­mented and vir­tual re­al­ity to en­hance op­er­a­tions. Avi­a­tion Business learns how AR and VR so­lu­tions are trans­form­ing the avi­a­tion sec­tor

Aviation Business - - CONTENTS - By Pari­naaz Nav­dar

Air­lines are us­ing aug­mented and vir­tual re­al­ity to en­hance op­er­a­tions

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by re­search com­pany Mar­kets and Mar­kets, the global vir­tual re­al­ity mar­ket is ex­pected to grow from US $7.9bil­lion in 2018 to $44.7 bil­lion by 2024. The pro­lif­er­a­tion of VR tech­nol­ogy in the avi­a­tion sec­tor has been par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy over the last two years. The use of vir­tual re­al­ity and aug­mented re­al­ity tech­nolo­gies has had a fun­da­men­tal im­pact on the de­vel­op­ment and cre­ation of op­er­a­tional pro­cesses, new prod­ucts, ser­vices and the over­all cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence within the sec­tor.

Lufthansa Group se­nior di­rec­tor sales, Gulf, Afghanista­n and Pakistan, Hein­rich Lange says: “Vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy of­fers the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop and im­ple­ment new meth­ods in or­der to de­sign and create seam­less, con­nected and highly cus­tomised travel ex­pe­ri­ences for our cus­tomers.”

For ex­am­ple, last year, pas­sen­gers fly­ing from Frank­furt to Dubai on Lufthansa flight LH630 were the first to ex­pe­ri­ence the air­line’s new pro­to­type ‘VR Moving Map’, while on board the Airbus A330. Pas­sen­gers wear­ing spe­cial VR gog­gles were able to view the moving land­scape be­low them as a 3D map and take part in 360° vir­tual ex­cur­sions at places of in­ter­est, such as the Prater Fer­ris Wheel in Vi­enna.

While most air­lines are yet to of­fer VR op­tions as part of in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, sev­eral are in­te­grat­ing VR in dif­fer­ent ways to tar­get cus­tomers.

In May, Sau­dia launched a vir­tual re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ence for pas­sen­gers, al­low­ing them to ex­plore the air­craft prior to pur­chas­ing tick­ets.

Sim­i­larly, Lufthansa has used VR to sell up­grades for a few years now, ac­cord­ing to Lange. He says: “In the past, at cer­tain air­ports, Lufthansa has given pas­sen­gers the chance to vir­tu­ally see what it is like to be seated in pre­mium econ­omy or business class. By check­ing the 360° view of the cabin in­te­rior, they could de­cide if

they wanted to pur­chase a seat up­grade on the spot.”

Last year, Emi­rates tri­alled VR head­sets in its business class and first class lounges to pro­vide im­mer­sive cin­e­matic ex­pe­ri­ences. At the time, Emi­rates said in a state­ment that a mix of con­tent would be made avail­able, in­clud­ing 3D & 2D movies, box sets, doc­u­men­taries and 360-de­gree videos.

How­ever, while air­lines are keen to of­fer more VR-based en­ter­tain­ment for pas­sen­gers, safety re­mains an is­sue.

VR train­ing is the clos­est thing to the real en­vi­ron­ment, and it can even be bet­ter than re­al­ity as some things just can’t be trained safely in a real-world sce­nario” Thomas Hoger, 3spin

3spin co-owner Thomas Hoger says: “Safety and ser­vice con­cerns need to be ad­dressed such as giv­ing pas­sen­gers no­ti­fi­ca­tions once meal ser­vice starts or turbulence oc­curs – how­ever, all these prob­lems can be ad­dressed through soft­ware, which is what 3spin has al­ready tried to­gether with Lufthansa and Lufthansa Sys­tems.”

TRAIN­ING SO­LU­TIONS

While air­lines still have some way to go be­fore in­te­grat­ing VR more fully in cus­tomer and en­ter­tain­ment ex­pe­ri­ences, the tech­nol­ogy has changed the way air­lines train staff across all func­tions, from MRO to cabin crew.

IFS di­rec­tor, MRO prod­uct line, aerospace & de­fence business unit,

When com­pared with train­ing on a real air­craft or in a cabin sim­u­la­tor, VR train­ing is the most ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion; Lufthansa Avi­a­tion Train­ing saves around 75% of costs com­pared to real air­craft-based train­ing” Hein­rich Lange, Lufthansa Group

James El­liott notes: “We have seen a steep rise in the adop­tion of AR and VR for train­ing in the air­line in­dus­try since one of the early adopters, Ja­pan Air­lines a cou­ple of years ago, de­ployed a vir­tual re­al­ity head­set for engine me­chan­ics and flight crew trainees.

“Vir­tual re­al­ity can greatly sim­plify and speed up the air­line staff train­ing in con­duct­ing an ex­ter­nal air­craft in­spec­tion. Em­ploy­ees wear­ing a head-mounted dis­play (HMD) can vir­tu­ally walk around an air­craft, de­tect ex­ist­ing is­sues, and check whether all nec­es­sary safety equip­ment is cor­rectly placed.

In April 2019, Lufthansa Avi­a­tion Train­ing in­tro­duced VR-based train­ing mod­ules, which will be used to train nearly 20,000 Lufthansa flight at­ten­dants each year in Frank­furt and Mu­nich.

“In our mod­ern VR hubs, these flight at­ten­dants are un­der­go­ing rel­e­vant safety and se­cu­rity train­ings as part of their re­cur­rent train­ing in a vir­tual way. For the train­ing it­self, VR gog­gles are handed out to the par­tic­i­pants – then they are taken to one of the 18 VR cab­ins at the train­ing lo­ca­tions in Frank­furt and Mu­nich. As soon as the trainees put on their VR gog­gles, they are im­me­di­ately in a vir­tual cabin and re­ceive a short in­tro­duc­tion from the dig­i­tal as­sis­tant vir­tual in­ter­ac­tive as­sis­tant (VIA). Dur­ing the en­tire ex­er­cise, a panel op­er­a­tor in the VR hub has a con­stant view of the ac­tion via sev­eral mon­i­tors. They trans­mit live videos from each cabin as well as what the par­tic­i­pants are see­ing through their VR gog­gles. The trainee and op­er­a­tor can also con­tact each other di­rectly at any time – whether it be for ques­tions or as­sis­tance,” Lange ex­plains.

Last year, Virgin At­lantic also an­nounced it was test­ing an aug­mented re­al­ity train­ing app for cabin crew. The air­line tapped SITA to create an AR so­lu­tion al­low­ing flight at­ten­dants to walk through the air­craft and ac­quaint them­selves with the lay­out of the air­line’s Boe­ing 787 Dream­liner air­craft.

Lufthansa and 3spin also part­nered to de­velop the world’s first mo­bile VR pi­lot train­ing so­lu­tion, and 500 pi­lots a year are ex­pected to use it in the fu­ture.

Hoger re­veals: “The first train­ings have been eval­u­ated sci­en­tif­i­cally in Phoenix, USA and led to a 15% increase in over­all per­for­mance. Fur­ther­more, Lufthansa and 3spin are us­ing Aug­mented Re­al­ity for cargo train­ing – this al­lows to bring 3D cargo into a reg­u­lar of­fice train­ing ses­sion which makes the train­ing much more au­then­tic com­pared to text­book learn­ing.”

Sim­i­larly, the In­ter­na­tional Air Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (IATA) now uses VR to train ground crew and flight at­ten­dants.

The move from class­room-based and prac­ti­cal train­ing to VR-aided lessons is a no-brainer in most cases, ac­cord­ing to air­lines and train­ing providers.

Hoger states: “Stud­ies have shown it is the most ef­fec­tive learn­ing method com­pared to text­book and video train­ing. VR train­ing is the clos­est thing to the real en­vi­ron­ment, and it can even be bet­ter than re­al­ity as some things just can’t be trained safely in a real-world sce­nario.”

It’s a sen­ti­ment echoed by El­liott, who notes: “VR is a no-risk way of learn­ing new skills with­out risk of dam­age to ac­tual com­po­nents. An im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence can give new tech­ni­cians a mul­ti­di­men­sional look at a com­plex prob­lem that would be hard to duplicate in a typ­i­cal train­ing en­vi­ron­ment. They can per­form a vir­tual re­pair and gain the ex­pe­ri­ence needed for work in the field.”

More ex­pe­ri­enced tech­ni­cians can also use a VR sim­u­la­tion for re­cur­ring train­ing be­fore tack­ling a pro­ce­dure they may not have per­formed re­cently, or at all.

El­liott ex­plains: “An in­struc­tor can be in one place and the tech­ni­cians can be dis­trib­uted across a wide ge­og­ra­phy. Yet both can gather to­gether in the same vir­tual workspace to re­view a spe­cific train­ing sce­nario. This re­duces an air­line’s need to pull me­chan­ics off the line and send them to a train­ing class­room in an­other city or coun­try.”

He adds: “The same ap­proach can be ap­plied to other staff too. Flight at­ten­dants can learn how to op­er­ate new equip­ment and de­liver re­designed on­board ser­vice. Ground staff too could ben­e­fit from VR, learn­ing the proper way to ma­noeu­ver ground ser­vice equip­ment and se­quence the com­plex ar­ray of ser­vic­ing tasks dur­ing an air­craft turn. Im­mer­sive VR train­ing can save hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars of an­nual dam­age re­pairs and de­lay costs.”

Lange agrees, say­ing: “When com­pared with train­ing on a real air­craft or in a cabin sim­u­la­tor, VR train­ing is the most ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion; Lufthansa Avi­a­tion Train­ing saves around 75% of costs com­pared to real air­craft-based train­ing. Fur­ther­more, the train­ing can be car­ried out on a much more in­di­vid­ual ba­sis than in an air­plane.”

Some com­pa­nies, how­ever, are tak­ing a more prag­matic view. Pratt & Whit­ney di­rec­tor, cus­tomer train­ing Zonda Feul­ner says: “One of the big­gest lim­i­ta­tions we have come across is the ma­tu­rity of the avail­able VR tech­nol­ogy. We have been pur­chas­ing and eval­u­at­ing hard­ware to de­ter­mine long-term fea­si­bil­ity to meet our needs. We have no­ticed some so­ci­etal pref­er­ences to us­ing VR as well. Some are ea­ger to try the tech­nol­ogy while oth­ers strongly pre­fer not to wear a head­set.

“Aug­mented and mixed re­al­ity tools are un­der de­vel­op­ment to sup­port im­mer­sion train­ing, pro­vid­ing

a more ef­fec­tive cus­tomer train­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that can be ac­cessed even from re­mote lo­ca­tions. In or­der to be adopted for main­stream main­te­nance in the fu­ture, an in­te­grated, ma­ture, wire­less so­lu­tion needs to be­come read­ily avail­able.”

Feul­ner notes that while some lim­i­ta­tions cur­rently ex­ist, the com­pany is hop­ing to add more VR-based com­po­nents to its train­ing mod­ules. She ex­plains: “Cur­rently, Pratt & Whit­ney cus­tomer train­ing is done through class­room time and with real en­gines. Our vi­sion is to have a vir­tual re­al­ity com­po­nent that sup­ple­ments what we cur­rently have. It’s pos­si­ble that we could take this tech­nol­ogy to the point where a me­chanic can get credit for learn­ing what they need to know by pick­ing up a vir­tual wrench from a vir­tual tool­box to work on one of our vir­tual en­gines.

Ul­ti­mately, Hoger notes, the adop­tion of VR across all func­tions of avi­a­tion is an in­evitabil­ity. He says: “With pres­sure points cur­rently im­pact­ing air­lines with newer and more com­plex air­craft en­ter­ing the sup­ply chain and a short­age of en­gi­neers, we are only go­ing to see fur­ther pro­lif­er­a­tion of aug­mented and vir­tual re­al­ity.

An im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence can give new tech­ni­cians a mul­ti­di­men­sional look at a com­plex prob­lem that would be hard to duplicate in a typ­i­cal train­ing en­vi­ron­ment. They can per­form a vir­tual re­pair and gain the ex­pe­ri­ence needed for work in the field” James El­liott, IFS

Lufthansa pas­sen­gers have un­der­taken vir­tual ex­cur­sions, with VR gog­gles

Lufthansa Avi­a­tion Train­ing vir­tual re­al­ity hub for cabin train­ing

3spin part­nered with Lufthansa to de­velop the world’s first VR pi­lot train­ing so­lu­tions

A flight at­ten­dant uses the VR hub at Lufthansa Avi­a­tion Train­ing

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