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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Technology Deployment by Aviation Companies

February, 2019

Research, operation and future considerations for augmented reality innovations have been growing throughout the global aviation industry over the previous decade. The article will cover some of the application areas of the aviation industry, where augmented reality technology is being deployed by aviation companies.

Pratt and Whitney: The company’s customer training division has formed strategic collaboration with United Technologies Research Center to invest and develop augment and virtual reality-based engine maintenance training for airline mechanics. Pratt and Whitney is currently performing beta testing in classroom environments with the use of headsets and hand sensor controls that would enable aviation mechanics to virtually walk inside the Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine to examine and monitor parts and preview a running engine in motion.

Aero Glass: The company has developed a headset that aviation pilots can wear and view real-time cockpit control information such as oil temperature, altimeter readings, heading and fuel pressure, within a display that fits in the glass portion of the headset. In October 2016, Airbus BizLab has selected the company’s augmented reality technology to use into aviation laboratory though offering business proposition to Aero Glass. The company has also received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program for its head-worn display concept.

Air New Zealand: Air New Zealand, in strategic collaboration with Dimension Data, IT service-provider, is performing beta-testing the use of Microsoft HoloLens for its cabin crew. The company foresees to develop augmented reality technology solution, where flight attendants can wear a Microsoft HoloLens headset that will enable them in tracking passenger information on the headset such as flight details, time since last served and even the emotional status of the flight passengers.

Bell Helicopter: At Heli Expo 2017, Bell Helicopter publicly revealed for the first time its futuristic FCX-001 concept helicopter. The company foresees future pilots will be controlling the aircraft with the aid of augmented reality and an artificial intelligence computer assistance system, as per description of the virtual cockpit feature notes. Moreover, the company believes that virtual cockpit concept as a stepping stone to fully autonomous un-piloted vertical-take-off-and-landing air vehicles in the future.

Japan Airlines: In 2014, the company has first used Google Glass for its maintenance operations at Honolulu station with the objective to increase the work efficiency. During the trial, it was demonstrated that aviation maintenance staff could receive advice and instruction by audio during operations as well as real-time information photograph or video that could be shared with staff off site. However, after removal of Google Glass from commercial marketplace by Google, Japan Airlines moved on and started using Microsoft’s HoloLens headset into its maintenance operations. The company is using the Microsoft’s HoloLens virtual reality headset to provide training for new engine mechanics staffs and flight crew members. For instance, in place of traditional printouts of cockpits or engine components, staffs in training can walk inside of an actual virtual engine or cockpit and learn how to work on them.

Conclusion: Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are being currently deployed to examine and monitor engine parts and view a running engine in motion, airline maintenance operations among other applications. Furthermore, it is expected that in the next three to five years, augmented reality and virtual reality systems are likely to be used at a significantly higher volume by other industries as well including Healthcare, Education, Retail, Defence, and Manufacturing, for operational benefits and to augment human performance.

Pradeep Singh,
Sr. Research Analyst,
Infoholic Research