Simulations have been used to assist in pilot training for decades, with both military and commercial pilots using large hydraulic simulator rigs to learn the art of piloting in a safe environment, including how to fly in emergency situations. However, simulators are large, expensive pieces of equipment, so one pilot training school is offering a potential alternative.
A flight instruction school in Australia’s Caloundra Airport called GoFly Aviation is offering virtual reality (VR) flight lessons, as an update to previously available DVD tutorials. GoFly Aviation’s owner and chief pilot instructor Damien Wills has teamed up with Brisbane-based production company Light Studios to create a VR experience that helps prospective pilots learn the basics of flying using just a smartphone and an inexpensive mobile VR headset.
The first of the VR courses being offered is a pilot certification course, with others planned to be added if the VR course is found to be successful. Wills said the idea came about when he was searching for similar technology to supplement the training his students were receiving, and couldn’t find what he was after. Seeing nothing like it on the market, he began to work on it himself.
The lessons used in the VR courses were shot using two 4K cameras equipped with 180-degree spherical lenses, placed back-to-back and mounted in the cockpit in the place a student would usually sit. The footage captured can be viewed on a VR headset, or using a smartphone or tablet. Students can look up or down, side to side and all around the cockpit and instrument panel, while listening to instructions recorded by Wills.
Wills said that the VR experience couldn’t make up for actual time spent in the air, but could help students looking for extra study aids, similar to the various driver education apps available on smartphones. Further information can be found at the GoFly Aviation website.