Let’s face it, we all have daydreamed of sitting in a cockpit and roaming the wild, blue yonder. It’s hard to find someone who wouldn’t have been fascinated by aviation at some point in their life. But for all the gratification that flying brings with it, no one can deny that it is also in equal measure, a dangerous thing. Now, for the number of moving parts that make up an aircraft, it is a surprisingly efficient and safe machine. The incredibly high standard to which an aircraft is made and maintained ensures that failure rates become a statistical improbability. No, the real weak link in the chain isn’t a plane’s hydraulics or engines or control surfaces as one might expect, but is in fact the pilot itself.
Current studies point that pilot error accounts for a staggering 85% of all aviation accidents. And while accident rates in commercial aviation have decreased over the past few years, in general, they have remained mostly the same. Accidents in personal flight have actually gone up by 20% in the last decade.
Augmented Reality in General Aviation
With all the numbers, it’s easy to just point the finger at pilots and say they didn’t do their job right. But there is more to it than just that. Richard Collins in his article – Was it Really Pilot Error – Or Was it Something Else? sums up the real problem here very succinctly – “Pilots don’t err on purpose, though, they err because they don’t know better.”
Anyone who has flown (or has even tried out a desktop flight simulator) will tell you that flying ain’t easy. Even a glancing look at the controls of a Cessna 172 can confound a student pilot, let alone those of a Boeing 737 which consists of hundreds of switches and dials.
Pilots need to consider a lot of information before making the simplest of decisions and small errors have a way of snowballing out of control. Reading instruments, terrain, and weather to make decisions can get very tedious very fast. Being a pilot myself, I know at first hand how dangerous such a scenario can be.
This is where Augmented Reality (AR) steps in. The problem of pilot error isn’t so much as information not being available, but rather, too much information presented all the time that can lead to analysis paralysis. With AR applications, timely relevant information can be presented to the pilot when it is needed in an intuitive format, so that they can focus on the task at hand.
The idea of using AR in aviation isn’t so far fetched either, in fact, it has already been successfully implemented. Today, every fourth generation onwards fighter jet comes with a standard issue Heads Up Display (HUD) that displays critical navigational, flight, targeting, and mission related information on a piece of glass in front of the pilot. The idea is to ensure the pilot need not keep looking down at the instruments while in the heat of the battle. The fifth generation F-35 Lightning 2 has taken this concept even further by installing a