BAN's World GazetteerSwitzerland
Virtual reality simulator developer Loft Dynamics has re-branded from VRM Switzerland and raised $20 million in financing. This is the company's first institutional round, led by US technology investors Craft Ventures, Sky Dayton and Up Ventures. The funding will accelerate Loft Dynamics' growth into international markets, particularly the US.
"After many years in development, we are ready to expand Loft Dynamics to become a global company and bring our technology and training solutions to the world," says co-founder and CEO Fabi Riesen. "This funding comes at exactly the right moment as we will be able to meet the escalating demand for flight schools and accelerate the range of aircraft types we support."
Loft Dynamics is already serving customers such as Airbus Helicopters, Air Zermatt, Colorado Highland Helicopters, Helitrans Norway, Meravo and Mountainflyers. Flight schools, airlines, fleet operators, governments and aircraft manufacturers are queuing up for a better solution to pilot training. With fewer pilots coming out of the military and the mass retirement of pilots during the COVID pandemic, the global need for trained pilots has never been higher. Loft Dynamics delivers highly efficient, exceptionally realistic, non-polluting and dramatically less expensive pilot training.
"When open-minded entrepreneurs apply innovative technology to a safety objective, large changes are possible in a short time frame. Loft Dynamics is paving the way for the integration of virtual reality applications in pilot training," says executive director and head of EASA Patrick Ky. "EASA looks forward to seeing the flight safety benefits of this as soon as possible, in line with the objective of EASA's Rotorcraft Safety Roadmap of increasing safety by 50 per cent by the end of 2028 compared with 2017 figures."
Loft Dynamics replaces legacy flight simulators and makes training safer. Traditional full-motion flight simulators are expensive, giant apparatuses only available in limited training centres built specifically to house them. As a result, students are forced to complete most of their training in the actual aircraft, which is expensive and impractical for most aspiring pilots.
Over the past six years, the team of engineers and aviation experts at Loft Dynamics has developed a safer, more accessible and more realistic training alternative: a unique helicopter simulator combining a high-resolution VR system, a dynamic six-degrees-of-freedom motion platform and a full-scale replica cockpit in a package 10 times smaller and roughly 20 times less expensive than traditional full-motion simulators. What's more, it cuts air time training by up to 60 per cent.
"At Airbus Helicopters, we are committed to pushing technology forward to enhance safety in training," says executive vice president customer support and services Christoph Zammert. "The Loft Dynamics simulator allows pilots to regularly train the full range of normal, abnormal and emergency procedures, in addition to all manner of weather conditions, safely and immersively anywhere in the world."
Loft Dynamics' simulators provide pilots with a highly realistic and immersive flight experience. They combine panoramic views inside and outside the aircraft from exact perspectives to precise colours, shading, vibrations, better visual cues and dramatically more realistic motion and sound characteristics of the actual aircraft. The pilot experiences the correct loads and force feedback from flight controls and is fully immersed.
"As a jet pilot, I have spent countless hours in traditional flight simulators and, unfortunately, I know their limitations," says Sky Dayton, the Earthlink and Boingo Wireless investor and founder who is joining Loft Dynamics' board of directors. "I heard about this innovative company in Zurich combining VR with motion, and flew to Switzerland to see it for myself. I was blown away by the realism: I landed on a runway and as the skids touched down I could feel the texture of the asphalt. I practised emergency procedures that would be extremely dangerous in an actual helicopter. Days later, I still had the muscle memory of the movements and vibrations of the real aircraft. Loft Dynamics is going to revolutionise pilot training."
Unlike traditional simulators, the Loft Dynamics training platform provides tremendous flexibility for new modules, enabling pilots to train for what they will encounter in real life before they encounter it.
The flexibility of the platform means that in the future, emergency response pilots will be able to practise landing on every building in their city, firefighter pilots will fly the mountains where they will be battling wildfires, training and retraining muscle memory and reflexes. Mountain flying, night operations, weather and windshear recovery, rescue, sling load carrying; the possibilities to create and train scenarios are endless.
Loft Dynamics is the world's first and only VR full motion simulator qualified by a major aviation regulator, having received EASA authorisation in May 2022 as an EASA FTD Level 3 flight simulation training device (FSTD) for the Airbus H125 and the Robinson R22. This means that pilots can train in Loft Dynamics simulators and receive credit as though in the actual aircraft. Full equivalency has never been granted to a VR system before.