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Swansea student’s airport simulation business takes off

A 20-year-old business student from Swansea University has built on his passion for aviation to develop an airport and flight simulation software business which now boasts over 3000 customers worldwide.

Joe Charman launched Pilot Plus at the age of 16 and now manages a team of three employees. Joe and his teamreplicate real world airports in a digital 3D format, using imagery they capture of airport scenes. The digital 3D replicas of the exterior of airport environments, including Gatwick, Bristol and Geneva create a mock-up environment for users, as if navigating a plane through that particular airport in real life.

The software has been sold to flight schools for pilot training purposes, commercial pilots as well as aviation enthusiasts, with sales that have covered nearly every corner of the world.

At present there are seven products in the Pilot Plus repertoire, and the team are currently working on their next product for London City Airport.

Speaking about the creation of the company, Joe said:

“When I was growing up I wanted to be an airline pilot and was desperate to explore the industry. Before long I realised that airport simulation didn’t really exist as a product for the mass market, so with about £200 to my name I started to develop my first product for Southampton Airport. I had my first few customers, which then turned into more and the customer base has kept growing since.”

Joe manages his business alongside his studies at Swansea University where he is going into his third year of Business Management. With his entrepreneurial ambitions in mind, Joe was introduced to Big Ideas Wales, part of the Business Wales service to encourage youth entrepreneurship in Wales. Big Ideas Wales is funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.

Seeing an opportunity to expand his connections further, Joe set up Swansea University’s first Entrepreneurs Network with a fellow student, a group which encourages students to follow their business ambitions.

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He continued: “I have always been business minded, but Big Ideas Wales has helped my personal development skills and linked me with many influential entrepreneurs, further fueling my entrepreneurial drive.”

In his third year Joe has plans to take up office space in Swansea.

Joe said: “I have always found it easy enough to manage my university work and business life, knowing when to give one more attention than the other when up against deadlines. In my final year, I plan to take on more people to help expand our product range and and continue to push to be the main market leader, competing with others that have launched in the last few years.

“I believe the future of Pilot Plus is bright, we are creating products that lead innovation in the market. As we focus on our current project, London City Airport, the roadmap is then to bring all past products to the same standard. We’re also planning to invest in different markets where our skills and tech can be applied, such as interior design with VR as well as architecture visualisation.”

Julie Walters, development manager for Big Ideas Wales said:

“Joe is a shining example of a driven young person who Big Ideas Wales is proud to support. His entrepreneurial flair from such a young age is so impressive and we wish him continued success with Pilot Plus in the future.”

Rhodri Evans, Enterprise Support Officer and Enterprise Champion at Swansea University said:

“At Swansea we encourage all our students to act upon their entrepreneurial flair to enhance their own experience at university and increase their employability when they graduate. Thanks to his natural aptitude for business, we know Joe has a bright future ahead of him.”

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