Lots of people would love to fly but consider it out of reach. Today, with the help of modern technology, flying is moving beyond the domain of the commercially trained few. With determination and perseverance, budding pilots are discovering that the dream of flying a plane is becoming more accessible.
HKSTP Incu-Tech programme member Aerosim (HK) was a startup formed in 2014 by a group of young flight enthusiasts to research and develop synthetic Flight Training Devices (SFTDs). The devices can be used as a flight simulation training platform for serving pilots to practise flying and enhancing flight safety. They can also help the general public understand more about piloting airplanes and young people develop an interest in flying as a career choice. Most importantly for Aerosim, schools can make use of SFTDs for professional lead-in training, to help meet the growing demand for pilots in Hong Kong and the region.
Learning to fly is fun and professionally rewarding
After setting up its operations and an initial round of R&D, Aerosim has made it into Science Park. The company’s co-founder and head of research and development Mattis Tsang suggests that flying a plane is as much fun as driving a car, diving or skiing. Almost everyone can learn the skills.
Given that being a commercial pilot is a promising career choice in an international aviation hub like Hong Kong, young people would find it well worth the effort and investment to gain a pilot license and join the profession. Flying a plane requires deft application of knowledge in mathematics, science and geography and is another compelling way to carry out STEM-focused education.
Simulated device makes practice easier
Doing is an important part of learning. The same is true for flying a plane. Mattis says that it is important for pilot trainees to fly a real plane in their training. But in reality, flying a real plane involves some risks, and the prohibitive costs and lack of airspace make it impossible to train exclusively on actual flights. Simulation devices such as SFTDs are a viable alternative for pilot trainees to become fully acquainted with the cockpit controls and deal with different scenarios, which would help reduce incidence rates.
Citing survey data, Mattis says that the global flight simulation market could be worth up to US$7.54 billion by 2021. This market includes high-end products costing millions of dollars, such as the pilot training devices made by international aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.
As air traffic continues to increase, the need to train pilots also grows, driving demand for flight simulation training devices. However, high-end simulators are affordable only for commercial carriers with the financial power to invest in such equipment. While less costly products are often not practical because they simulate obsolete plane models or they are assembled from different models.
DA40 simulator designed to learn in different flying scenarios
After extensive market research and trials, Aerosim has successfully developed a DA40 flight simulator for Airbus A320 planes, compliant with Australian and European civil aviation standards. It can be quickly assembled in a classroom or a hanger. The comprehensive software can create simulations for taking off or landing, in rainy or foggy conditions. The company also provides instructors and teaching materials and all the other elements required to become an ideal platform for education and training.
The company has developed an accessible rental model, including a training workshop with an instructor and an assistant, starting from HK$9,000. It is available for short-term rental by different types of organisations.
Aerosim’s clientele in Hong Kong comprises mainly schools and educational institutes. It is understood that the University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the Vocational Training Council are working with Aerosim to introduce DA40 as a training platform for their Aviation Studies courses.
HKSTP helps develop partner networks and overseas markets
Mattis points out that HKSTP’s help in expanding its business network has delivered visible results. The company is linking up with markets outside of Hong Kong, including those in the Greater Bay Area. Mattis says that the aviation market in China is rapidly expanding and that the company has received partnership enquiries about its flight simulation devices at trade fairs on the mainland and elsewhere. At the same time, the company is working closely with HKSTP teams on core operational areas such as recruitment, setting business directions and finding strategic partners.
Aerosim will continue its R&D to add artificial intelligence for teaching assistance in the next generation of flight simulators. The AI will be able to judge whether trainees are responding accurately and in a timely manner through analysing their eye contact and hand gestures.
At the same time, the company will strengthen its service package, including developing a data bank on pilot training, to help clients develop systematic training programs that can act as a lead-in to professional commercial pilot training.
Here’s hoping Aerosim will reach new heights of business success!