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Qatar Airways teams up with Rolls-Royce to test virtual reality training

Key Points
  • The technology, which uses HTC Vive equipment, has been designed to give engineers refresher training.
  • Separately, technology is also impacting operations on the ground in airports, with robotic assistants providing information on topics such as departure gates and Wi-Fi access.

Qatar Airways has partnered with Rolls-Royce to trial a virtual reality training tool.

The technology, which uses HTC Vive equipment, has been designed to give engineers virtual refresher training with Rolls-Royce's biggest engine, the Trent XWB.

The Trent XWB is used on Qatar Airways' A350 fleet. Due to the large size of the engine, it has to be separated into different parts before repairs and maintenance are carried out.

Using their devices, engineers will experience sight, touch and sound and be able to "separate" the engine and carry out training in a virtual environment.

Before the development of the new technology, engines would either be physically sent to Doha or the airline would provide "an engine in service" for training to take place. This, Rolls-Royce said, would risk damage to equipment or the loss of valuable flying time.

Steve Buckland is a customer and product training manager at Rolls-Royce and developed the virtual reality training program. "Virtual reality has a valuable application here," he said in a statement Monday. "It's going to save time, money, and frees up engines that could otherwise be on aircraft, keeping passengers moving," he added.

Buckland went on to explain that the business was looking to create holograms of engines that can be used in the classroom, as well as augmented reality that could be placed over a real engine in order to show technical information.

"Nothing will beat learning with an engine and this will never be replaced, but new technology is allowing us to be innovative with the ways we teach engineers," he added.

While technology is transforming the way that engineers are trained to maintain the engines that make planes fly, it is also impacting operations on the ground in airports.

It was recently announced that a robotic head would use artificial intelligence to provide information to passengers passing through Germany's Frankfurt Airport during a six-week trial.

The assistant, dubbed FRAnny, will be able to provide information on topics such as departure gates, Wi-Fi access and the location of restaurants. It can communicate with humans in English, German and seven other languages.

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