Virtual reality (VR) applications can be used for training in the aviation sector, but what needs to be done to optimize the technology? According to Konradas Dulka, product director at Sensus Aero, a new generation software solution for the aviation industry, VR applications can be both easy and tricky.
“Challenges for VR applications come in many different forms – some technical, others human factor,” said Dulka. “So while these technologies are valuable and allow us to improve training processes while engaging trainees, we must remain vigilant in addressing these challenges.”
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One of the challenges is optimization. “At Sensus Aero, we’ve been experimenting with a number of different VR engines, all of which have clear benefits,” said Dulka. “Whatever engine you choose, you have to spend a lot of time on optimisations. If you base your strategy only on realistic graphics, great sound effects, good step-by-step guidance, your product will not automatically be great. In my mind, the global optimizations actually define the product, allowing it to be used for a longer period of time, even by those who have never tried anything like this before.”
While VR training involves simulating a real-life procedure, it doesn’t have to cover everything. “We just focus on the procedural steps to make training faster and more focused,” says Dulka. “This means that every step of creating a VR simulation has to be considered very carefully: what do we want to be part of simulation and what is not so important. Our research has shown that if there are training parts during the simulation where you move around in the VR simulation without doing anything, for example as a passenger on a bus, half of the people will experience head spinning. Therefore, here we give the option for the instructor to disable the part and move to the next stage. In other words, the VR personalization must be there, because no one is the same.”
Onboarding can be another challenge. “Usually we recommend starting the training with simpler procedures, just to get used to the controls and the feel itself,” said Dulka. “Unlike ERP systems or mobile apps, VR gives you the feeling of immersion – the user starts to believe that they are in the simulation and here we can help them develop the right habits. When onboarding is done properly, the Sensus Aero VR training mode can easily guide users through the steps, even if the procedure is quite complex. And that’s it! After onboarding, users can be self-sufficient and conduct training themselves, which means less strain on the trainer’s schedule.”
An example of a particularly difficult aviation procedure that Sensus Aero has adapted to VR is refueling in aircraft.
“The complexity of a large number of steps and the replication of tank panels, trucks and sequences was really challenging,” says Dulka. “You can’t replicate ‘more or less’ and hope users will believe it – it has to be graphically exactly replicated so that the control interaction is as realistic as possible. In addition, you have to tailor everything to the business itself, as the company can use different trucks with different controls, customers’ aircraft fleets can consist of many different aircraft types, and so on.”
“Our recommendation is to focus on the most common mistakes and start from there,” Dulka continued. “In addition, unlike real training, Sensus Aero in-plane fueling VR allows us to simulate the overpressure or fire hazard, which is simply not possible in practice. It’s always good to know that your staff is prepared for all situations, not just the ‘positive’ sequence. We believe that with the integration of VR training we can improve aviation safety and minimize human factor risk.”
Sensus Aero is a family member of Avia Solutions Group.