Is XR ‘Taking Off’ for the Commercial Aviation Industry?

Here's how airlines plan to leverage immersive tools to keep clients safely in the skies

Is XR in commercial Aviation taking off?
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Published: December 16, 2022

Demond Cureton

The commercial aviation industry has earned a crucial ally in its operations. According to Allied Market Research, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) aviation markets are expected to reach $23.6 by 2031.

Following the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, aviation companies will have to recover and approach the next decade with fresh approaches. Getting passengers back in friendly skies will take immense effort, namely as airlines struggle with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 grounding and the current upskilling crisis.

Extended reality (XR) tools will allow manufacturers, airlines, and customers to leverage immersive tools capable of empowering the commercial aviation market. Aerospace firms such as Boeing and Airbus can advance manufacturing capabilities for an already backlogged series of orders.

Conversely, airlines can train the next generation of pilots with cutting-edge flight simulation solutions for rapid upskilling. Additionally, customers can view tourist destinations with mixed reality (MR) headsets to plan their next getaway.

Which Commercial Aviation Firms Offer XR Solutions?

According to some of the latest initiatives, here is how the commercial aviation industry is employing AR, VR, and MR solutions:

Commercial Aviation Training

Varjo, a Helsinki-based tech firm, has been leading the charge in training solutions with its recently released Aero headset. The enterprise-first device offers some of the most advanced simulation tools to train pilots with minimal setup.

Major organisations such as the European Aviation Safety Administration (EASA) have certified the solution for deployment to any global location. With a graphics-intensive PC, select NVIDIA graphics processing unit Varjo Aero headset, and simulator module, pilots can train to industry standards with equipment meeting strict aviation regulation standards.

This saves companies massive amounts of money on training pilots, allowing professionals to train ‘on the fly’ with the world’s most advanced equipment. Operators can purchase whole training solutions for frequent, scalable instruction, eliminating the need for costly pilot simulation centres.

Remote Guidance for Inspections

In addition to training, commercial aviation firms are also leveraging AR systems to boost turnaround times for aircraft inspections. For example, Taqtile completed its Hangar 51 accelerator programme to facilitate remote guidance tools for airports.

Inviting around 75 companies to participate in the accelerator, Taqtile collaborated with the International Airlines Group (IAG) to demo digital transformation tools for aviation repair and maintenance operations.

The 10-week course instructed aviation staff on using its Manifest platform. Trainees could use Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap headsets, as well as tablets and smartphones for the platform.

With the immersive kit, workers could overlay manuals, holograms, and video guides on physical aircraft repair walkthroughs. Such immersive tools dramatically reduced repair times, personnel deployment costs, and equipment downtimes.

Airport Customer Experiences

Additionally, airports are tapping the latest immersive kit to engage with passengers, namely following a partnership between Accenture and Singapore’s Changi Airport Groups (CAG).

The deal will provide immersive experiences for passengers with XR, the internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, across touchpoints at the world-class airport.

It will also engage customers with digital loyalty programmes, allowing CAG customers to earn points for purchases and flying. Additional emerging technologies will identify and access commercial aviation passengers for data privacy and added security at the facility.

Other nations are promoting the travel industry post-pandemic, with many nations creating sovereign metaverses to showcase national tourism initiatives. Nations such as Barbados, South Korea, Catalonia (Spain), Dubai, and Norway are creating virtual spaces to attract new fliers to top tourist destinations.

The news comes after the World Economic Forum (WEF) found XR could help the global tourism industry recover post-pandemic. The organisation stated immersive technologies could become a “game-changer” with a “seamless, uninterrupted interactive experience.”

Figures from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) revealed an 87 percent plummet in tourism amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.

In-Flight Entertainment

In the future, passengers could enjoy new approaches to in-flight entertainment. This will become a real possibility with airlines offering immersive movies and games for long-haul flights.

British Airways recently trialled SkyLights, an in-flight VR entertainment firm, to offer VR headsets for Airbus A340 passengers. The former Hangar 51 alumnus demoed the immersive entertainment system in 2019 to host films, documentaries, and travel programmes.

The commercial aviation carrier was also the first in the United Kingdom to ‘pilot’ the system. This has allowed passengers that fear flying to access therapeutic programmes for meditation and sound therapy.

Skylights has received praise from reviewers, with over 90 percent recommending its use. The startup has also recorded average use rates of 4 hours or more, figures show.

Similar solutions have surfaced in the automotive industry, with Audi-backed VR entertainment firm holoride debuting its latest system. The acclaimed console has reshaped road journeys for families.

With HTC VIVE Flow goggles, passengers can play VR games while travelling to their destinations. Additionally, holoride taps the vehicle’s travel data to sync gameplay with real-world conditions.

With the continued advancement of immersive technologies, large enterprises to startups are learning the immense benefits of using XR technologies.

These new spatial computing tools are making commercial aviation a safer, faster, and more comfortable industry. With them, airlines and their passengers reap the rewards for current and future generations.



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