Virgin Atlantic pilots Sony smartglasses and smartwatches for engineers

Airline hopes wearable tech will help engineers save time during aircraft turnaround.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor
Scary looking or cute? Get used to it if you are planning on flying anytime soon Photo: Sony

Airline Virgin Atlantic is using Sony smartglasses, tablets, and smartwatches as part of an eight-week trial of wearable technology for engineers carrying out routine maintenance and repairs on aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic will run the trial at its biggest and busiest hub, London Heathrow, and will test how the technology "can be used for real time communication between the engineering team on the aircraft and in the engineering support areas," the airline said.

Engineers working on Virgin Atlantic aircraft at the airport and in the hangar will be testing Sony's SmartEyeglass Developer Edition SED-E1 on tablets, mobile phones, and SmartWatch 3. The trial will start as soon as next week.

Engineers will be able to use the augmented reality glasses to take pictures of or video the tasks they are working on. This will be linked to an app running on a smartphone which will allow the engineers to complete and submit a form requesting further technical assistance. The glasses will also be used for real-time video streaming to allow office-based engineering staff to see a problem from an on-the-ground engineer's point of view in order to provide more rapid technical assistance.

The aim is to help minimise the time spent dealing with the mountains of paperwork needed to process millions of flights around the world. Airlines are already big users of tablet computers and this trial is seen as the logical next step on the road to winning the war on paper.

According to Virgin Atlantic, the technology will allow engineers and technicians to remain on the aircraft during turnarounds, thus saving time.

During the trial, engineers will be able to receive notifications on their SmartWatch 3 devices about any changes to job allocations, or detail in the tasks, the airline said. Managers will also be able to get "feedback that the engineer has read the notification and that the task is in hand".

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