The debate is open. The flight simulation sector, for both pilots and cabin crews, has been dominated since its inception by training devices made to function, more or less realistically, like real aircraft. However, for a few years now, virtual reality (VR), which started out oriented towards entertainment, has been projected in the sector as an alternative - nothing virtual - to conventional flight simulation. As this technology advances, are touch and play simulators in jeopardy? Will we see the traditional FTD and FFS disappear?
Virtual reality is basically another form of simulation. As in all its areas of use, the VR provides a simulated environment with scenes or objects of real appearance, which creates in the user the sensation of being immersed inside them. To get that experience, virtual reality glasses or helmets are used. These vision instruments can be accompanied by other haptic technology devices, such as gloves or special suits, which allow tactile interaction with the environment as well as the perception of different stimuli that intensify the feeling of reality.
At the moment this technology is beginning to be widely used in the aviation industry as a training tool not only for pilots and cabin crew but for related personnel in other areas, such as mechanics.
The reasons are easy to explain. VR provides notable advantages to flight simulation. In the savings section, given its simplicity, it is not necessary to use large spaces nor to install huge and complex simulators. On the other hand, the hardware is reduced, practically, to a virtual reality helmet and, for the most demanding, the addition of gloves and special suits. A fairly advanced virtual reality headset does not usually exceed €1000.
Another of its advantages is interconnectivity, since, for example, environments can be generated where several people carry out an aerial simulation exercise simultaneously, even if they are in different parts of the world.
It is not surprising, therefore, that VR is already being developed by simulator manufacturers and airlines as an alternative to conventional simulation. But, going back to the beginning, will VR be a complementary simulation or will it eventually prevail over current devices?.
According to Carlos Pérez, CEO of Simloc, “at the moment, it is a perfect complement to modernize training programs. This technology allows improving the learning curves of users, which results not only in training better pilots, but from a business point of view increases the efficiency of investments in training."
For the director of this Spanish company that manufactures flight training devices, “as technology advances we will see the space be reduced with conventional simulation, but we are still far from being able to take that step. FTD simulators are still very necessary and VR cannot replace the training that is carried out on them, but, as I said before, it can contribute to a better and more efficient preparation of students and pilots”.
In fact, Simloc is firmly betting on Virtual Reality by starting several programs during the year 2020. "We are going to focus on developing a good technological platform and from there offering different solutions and content," says Carlos Pérez. "The Simloc product in this field is aimed at perfecting different training tools for pilots, both in civil and military aviation, creating environments that allow learning and familiarization with different types of aircraft, training in tactical environments, training for technical personnel, etc… ”
The VR has come to flight simulation to stay.