In a world first, trainee chainsaw operators will soon be able to use a virtual reality (VR) application to test their theoretical knowledge and hone their skill in a simulated timber plantation.
Developed by Forestry South Africa (FSA), the Fibre Processing and Manufacturing Sector Education and Training Authority (FP&M Seta) and industry partners, this solution trains chainsaw operators in a safe, simulated environment before they test their skills in this high-risk activity in timber plantations.
While the number of chainsaw operators employed in large commercial plantations has declined in recent years, the opposite is true in small-scale and community forestry, where suitably trained chainsaw operators need to be equipped with this scarce and critical skill.
Although forestry has used simulators over the past decade, their use in the training of chainsaw operators is an innovative development.
The cost of practical training has risen substantially. The sector sought a solution that would not only provide a cost-effective coaching medium with minimal risk, but a means whereby trainee operators could gain a feel for their equipment before taking their first steps into the field or forest.
“Besides the obvious benefits that our industry stands to gain from this project, VR is the future of skills development and training. It transports learners into the environment for which they are being trained, promotes interactivity and improves the retention of information through experience,” says FSA business development director Norman Dlamini.
The solution is remarkably simple to operate and offers significant value for money. All that is needed is a dedicated computer, a VR headset, a specially adapted chainsaw with sensors and a customised mobile gazebo. The total cost of the hardware to run the app is approximately R35 000, while the software is available free of charge to FSA members.