The German Centre for Drones: DLR researches air taxis and noise reduction in Cochstedt

Expansion of testing centre progressing / Opening scheduled for May 2021

The development of the German Centre for Drones at the location of Cochstedt (Salzlandkreis) is currently making great strides forwards. With the support of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) acquired the airport in mid-2019 for the purpose of testing civil unmanned aerial systems (UAS) there in the future. In this respect, the DLR is to start by investing some six million euros in the scientific and operational infrastructure by early 2021. Further investments to the value of at least four million euros are set to follow.

The plans include modern systems for communication, flight inspection and monitoring, a workshop, new offices, upgrading the terminal as an institute building and new tower technology. Some of the investments have already been completed or are nearly finished. The objective is to resume flight operations on 1 May 2021. The first research projects are already up and running, however.

On Wednesday, Saxony-Anhalt’s Minister of Economic Affairs, Prof. Dr. Armin Willingmann, made the following comments: "For several years, Cochstedt Regional Airport lacked any convincing prospects for development. Together with DLR, we have succeeded in laying the foundations for a unique research airport with a promising future. Both the scientific and industrial sectors in Saxony-Anhalt will benefit from this. The University of Magdeburg, as well as other institutions, are already striving for close partnerships. The future research airport will also be a highly attractive location for new business start-ups and technology companies, so that in the long term, new, high-quality jobs won't just be created at the DLR itself, but also as businesses decide to locate there. Saxony-Anhalt is developing into a federal state for forward-looking technology – of which Cochstedt is a great example."

As highlighted by Prof. Rolf Henke, member of the Executive Board of Aeronautics of the DLR: “With the development of a national testing centre for unmanned aerial systems at Cochstedt airport, a facility is being created which is unique in Europe and will bring together the capabilities and expertise of DLR in the area of unmanned aerial systems. With our partners, we will work on the development and approval of the technology and also with the authorities on new regulations for the operation of UAS. The location will be used for the development and testing of new aviation technologies, and will be available to use by customers from the industrial sector, such as start-ups. In addition, a network for all the future test field activities is to be created, with the National Test Centre as the central, integrative location. The location and the existing infrastructure both speak in favour of Cochstedt, which we will continue to develop from the perspective of research."

Unmanned aerial systems are now being used for disaster relief and for transporting medicines to remote areas. The entire unmanned aerial vehicle industry is experiencing rapid growth, accompanied by the development of new concepts and technologies, from which a new industry is gradually emerging.

Air-based mobility solutions in and between populated areas (Urban Air Mobility) are likely to pose numerous research questions for the worlds of science and industry in the future. In detail, the future activities at the location of DLR in Cochstedt will address the four major challenges of unmanned flying:

  • vehicle technology (including the testing of demonstrators, drives, energy storage systems),
  • flight guidance (including the integration of UAS into civil airspace),
  • regulation (including certification and accreditation), and
  • acceptance and impact research (especially in terms of noise, safety and environmental influences).

The activities are being integrated into DLR-wide projects and collaborations with partners from the worlds of research and industry in Germany, Europe and the rest of the world. At the scientific level, in the area of UAS research, the DLR already collaborates with large-scale research institutions such as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Centre) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). A collaboration with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is also planned.

For research and testing purposes, the Cochstedt test site will also be accessible to both start-ups and the established aviation industry, and will assume the role of incubator and enabler for start-ups and SMEs. For reasons of approval, it will be necessary for new types of unmanned aerial system to be subject to extensive testing and qualification processes under real conditions in a controlled environment, tasks for which Cochstedt is ideal, making it the central contact partner for the coordination of a network of testing fields throughout Germany. From this perspective, the operating licence as a commercial airport will also be maintained in order to achieve the widest possible test spectrum for the research.

Information on current research projects:

City ATM (Demonstration of Traffic Management in Urban Airspace)

In the City-ATM project, an airspace management and traffic control concept is being developed for the integration of new airspace participants, such as unmanned aircraft or air taxis, in the uncontrolled airspace. Following the flight tests already carried out in Hamburg at the Köhlbrand Bridge in 2019, a further series of tests will soon start in Cochstedt (the first tests are planned for the end of January 2020).

LN-ATRA (Low Noise Technologies Flight Test Demonstration)

The LN-ATRA project surrounds the development of devices that can be retrofitted to commercial aircraft that are currently in service so as to provide short or medium term noise reduction solutions. The DLR will carry out another major flight test campaign with its D-ATRA research aircraft, an Airbus A320, in Cochstedt in the second quarter of 2020, which will then provide recommendations for retrofitting measures for industry. Moreover, valuable knowledge will be gained regarding noise measurements which will also be of use for future research into noise in the field of unmanned aerial systems.

In addition, various exploratory and planning discussions are currently in progress with partners from the industrial sector, ranging from start-ups to established aviation companies and "lateral entrants" from the area of mobility.

Andreas Schütz
Head of Media Relations, Press Spokesman
German Aerospace Centre (DLR)
Telephone: +49 2203 601-2474
Mobile: +49 171 3126466

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