Inspection training in the virtual world

In March 2022, Transport Canada successfully completed a project in collaboration with, a Vancouver-based technology company that provides simulated employee training using virtual reality technology. The project began in September 2021 with funding from the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

The project involved evaluating the effectiveness of virtual reality training for employees that inspect aircraft and vessels. It also tested the possibility of using as a platform for Transport Canada learning designers.

For the project, created 2 training scenarios that were tested via virtual reality with groups of volunteers. The first scenario was created to help Transport Canada Civil Aviation inspectors.

To create these simulated experiences, designers at used a platform called Storyflow. Using a simple drag-and-drop interface, designers can integrate different objects, people, and text within the scene and prompt them to appear at specific times and perform pre-determined actions.

These assets can be easily modified depending on training needs. For example, if instructors want trainees to work on a different type of plane, or change the weather conditions, these parts of the training scenario can be easily updated.

Scenario 1 – Aircraft inspection

Taking inspiration from real video footage of a plane making a dangerous landing in Montreal, learning designers created a simulation that tasked employees with inspecting the plane post-landing. By using virtual reality, the designers helped the volunteers learn how to speak with witnesses and gather evidence - all in a risk-free, cost-effective manner.

The training was done remotely. This meant that the virtual reality equipment was shipped directly to participants. This could help reduce travel costs and carbon emissions.

Scenario 2 – Vessel inspection

The second training scenario was created to help train Navigation Protection Program officers in identifying and addressing problem vessels in Canadian waters. Through the Wrecked, Abandoned, or Hazardous Vessels Act, officers were asked to inspect abandoned vessels and clear any safety hazards that could negatively impact local public health and safety, the economy, the environment, or recreational activities.

The training scenario allowed participants to inspect an abandoned tugboat off the coast of Vancouver. While testing the scenario, participants collected evidence and notified the owner of the tugboat, all through the lens of a virtual reality headset.

These trials took place across the country with different groups of volunteers. Going forward, these scenarios will be used as simulated field trips for real Transport Canada employees. During the training, instructors will teach participants the theory of what they need to do, before having participants go into each virtual reality scenario to practice put what they’ve learned.

Once the activity is complete, participants and instructors will be able to reflect and debrief as a group. also supplied a dashboard tool for instructors to watch the volunteers’ performance and provide feedback.

Trial runs of these training scenarios have received positive feedback from both trainees and Transport Canada.

What’s next?

For the future of this project, Adam Ashton the Technical Training Specialist leading the project, hopes to expand to other forms of training. This might involve sectors like rail or road safety, drone piloting, and transporting dangerous goods.

Another part of the training that Ashton hopes to expand on is the number of trainees involved in the course at one time.

"At the moment, it’s limited to one person at a time,” says Ashton. “It’s like a one-player game, you never have a second player there. We’re working on opening it up to have multiple people in the same session at the same time. It would also allow instructors to be with trainees and communicate with them in real time.”

Next steps on this project is for Transport Canada and to evaluate the roll-out and effectiveness of the virtual reality training. Test groups will begin in September 2022.