Carola Meyer: Forschungsflughafen Braunschweig – Wo das Simulieren innovativ ist …

Not everyone involved in simulation has a clear conscience. But to those in Braunschweig, simulation is an honour. The reason is that simulation at the Braunschweig Research Airport is a profession recognised around the world in the field of mobility research.

Braunschweig Research Airport is the German and European centre for the research and development of future mobility technologies. At the interdis­­ci­plinary Campus Research Airport, a scientific cooperation between the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Technical University of Braun­schweig, a number of institutes are conducting research under the “Bürgernahes Flug­­zeug” (the people’s aeroplane) programme. In doing so, they are aiming to find solutions to deal with the chal­­lenges of increasing mobility, dwindling resources and growing environmental awareness. The programme is not meant to reach far-off goals quickly, nor to create high-tech equipment simply for the sake of progress. Above all, the research is focussed on people and the overall image of ideal mobility that the average person holds. This is an ideal that begins with the trip to the airport, well before the aeroplane takes off. To us, ideal air travel means an airport that is easy to reach, where the processes and management of air traffic, as well as of passenger and goods processing, are guaranteed to be time-saving, hazard-free and free of disruption, combined with an aero­­plane that is lightweight enough to reduce fuel consumption to a minimum and which is fast and quiet enough so that emissions do not bother neighbours or passengers. Research and development in Braunschweig is bringing us closer to this ideal.

The automobile industry is also us­­ing the simulation technology at the Re­­search Airport. The developments by delair Air Traffic Systems GmbH are one example of resource-saving methods. The company was founded in 1997 at Braunschweig Airport and offers innovative systems for process optimisation at airports and in the surrounding airspace. Delair software decreases circling in holding patterns, approach times and taxiing times prior to take off. As a result, staff and tech­­nology can be used more efficiently and fuel saved, while travel times are shortened.

The work station with the Aerodata AG  flight measurement system helps  calibrate control electronics  at the airport.

The work station with the Aerodata AG flight measurement system helps calibrate control electronics at the airport.

Simtec simulation technology GmbH, a manufacturer of the unique global full-flight simulator for the Dornier 228 aeroplane, provides a good example of practical simulation. The Simtec training centre attracts pilots from around the world. Simtec is one of the world’s market leaders as a systems provider for the realistic simulation of complex motion processes across all types of traffic carriers. The automotive indus­­try, for example, uses the simulation technology to analyse product quality, life cycle and material wear by carrying out realistic tests under laboratory con­­ditions. The spectacular developments are even used in the entertain­­ment industry. Simtec is working on projects in collaboration with DLR insti­­tutes and has developed a new type of gyrocopter simulator in 2012 to support the sharp rise in demand of training on this new generation of aircraft.
Long-distance mobility is a key industry segment and thus a true motor of inno­­vation in our increasingly global world. Restricting factors such as limited re­­sources and the crucial environmental compatibility of new technologies require research and development to be highly networked in this field. A perfect example of this networking between science, research and business can be found at the Braunschweig Research Airport.

Top class research geared towards prac­­tical application. A number of re­­search institutions work at the Research Air­­port, ranging from fundamental re­­search to the development and testing of tech­­­­nolo­­gies for specific applications. The facil­­ity is equipped with research aero­­planes, sim­­u­­lators, wind channels and test benches, so that the entire airport infrastructure is just about ideal, and it is constantly being expanded. In 2011, 33 million euros were invested in the exten­­sion of the runway, in order to allow full-capacity testing of the new research flagship ATRA, a DLR Airbus A320 modi­­fied for research purposes. Europe’s biggest high perform­­ance computer for nu­­mer­­ical physical flight simulations, C²A²S²E (Center for Computer Applications in Aero-Space Science and Engineering) was also put into operation here in 2008. In total, over 175 million euros were invested in the research infra­­structure between 2007 and 2011. Another 60 million euros will be invested since 2012. The research facilities are closely connected with each other, as well as with companies in the free economy, pub­­lic authorities and centres for technology transfer – a circumstance that makes it possible not only to develop and test new technologies, but also to turn them into new products and services quickly and efficiently.

The ATRA research aeroplane,  an Airbus A320-232, has been used  by the German Aerospace Center  (DLR) since late 2008.

The ATRA research aeroplane, an Airbus A320-232, has been used by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) since late 2008.

A cornerstone of the research and development here is the satellite navigation segment and associated tests, certifi­­ca­­tions and validations. A new Galileo labo­­ratory is being established, which will provide assistance to TU Braunschweig’s aviationGATE as a test field for Galileo applications and to the Galileo Centre for Safety Applications, Certifications and Services (GAUSS). New satellite-assisted processes can be tested up to maturity using the existing research aircraft.

This point also demonstrates how close to reality the term “short routes” really is.

Research and development at the Re­­search Airport not only pertains to aero­­space, but also to the automotive and rail sectors, as demonstrated in a few ex­­am­­ples, and thus the entire mo­­bility industry. Key issues in this field of re­­search include lightweight construction, new ma­­te­­rials, simulation, communica­­tion, control, flight control, air traffic ma­­nagement, aerodynamics and new drive technologies.

The technical platform “Car-2-car-com­­mu­­nication”, which is assisted by ITS Niedersachsen, is exemplary in research in road traffic safety. It addresses intel­­ligent communication between neighbouring vehicles with the aim of pre­­venting accidents, breaking up traffic jams and increasing the user friend­­liness of the cars of tomorrow. In addi­­tion to DLR and TU Braunschweig, all the major German automobile manufacturers are involved in the project.

Lightweight construction and aircraft system technology of the future. Ideal lightweight structures are of key import­­ance for excellent flight performance, particularly around the fuselage and wings. In lightweight construction, hard but lighter structures made from carbon-fibre-reinforced composites with a metal coating can reduce fuel consumption noticeably and make it possible to use shorter runways for larger aircraft too. New adhesion technologies mean main­­tenance work can be carried out more efficiently and economically. The behav­­iour of the different structural concepts and detachable joints when damaged is also analysed, modelled and validated in this field of research.


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The airship Carolo 11 (right) is prize-winning research equipment from AKAMAV at TU Braunschweig.  John Brown’s carplane model is a  contribution to the bimodal air and  street traffic concept of the future.

The airship Carolo 11 is prize-winning research equipment from AKAMAV at TU Braunschweig. John Brown’s carplane model is a contribution to the bimodal air and street traffic concept of the future.

 In flight systems technology in partic­­ular, adaptive hybrid flight control strat­egies will unite the advantages of model-based controllers with the learning abilities of artificial neural networks. Above all, the self-learning systems tech­­nology is intended to support pilots in difficult flight situations. This includes learning qualified basic knowledge, reac­­tion behaviour in extreme conditions and the development of a suitable sen­­sor concept.

The Research Airport is constantly grow­­ing and the approximately 2,300 highly-qualified staff positions here have led to the creation of another 4,500 jobs. Alongside the Campus Research Air­­port, with Nieder­säch­sisches Forschungs­­zentrum Fahrzeug­­technik (NFF), another interdisciplinary centre for fundamental and practical research is being established.

Braunschweig Research Airport: Re­­search that gets us moving.

Meyer_Carola_7018-KopieThe author completed degree studies at the Fachhochschule für Verwaltung und Rechtspflege in Braunschweig from 1984 to 1987. After working in city marketing and economic funding in Braunschweig, she took over the position of CEO of Forschungsflughafen Braunschweig GmbH in late 2009.