The flight simulator center AVES (Air Vehicle Simulator) has two high-fidelity simulators, one aircraft and one helicopter, for cutting edge flight research. AVES is designed as a modular, flexible platform using the latest technologies for a comprehensive exploration of flight. This modern test facility closes the gap between numeric simulations and experimental flight operations at Braunschweig’s Research Airport. AVES is operated by DLR’s Institute of Flight Systems; its development has been carried out in cooperation with the Technical University of Braunschweig (IFF) in order to serve as a link between the applied research within DLR and the (basic) research and education at the University (see also article in → DLR-Magazine 140).
The main area of research is the further investigation of the dynamic interaction between cockpit crew and air vehicle, in particular for commercial airplanes and helicopters as well as for new, beyond the state of the art configurations.
An electro-mechanically driven motion system provides the best possible immersion for the cockpit crews. Two visual systems, each with 15 LED projectors produce a 240° x 95° field of view. The two simulation cockpits of an Airbus A320 and Eurocopter EC135, are designed to Level D quality, representing the flying testbed ATRA and FHS with the highest fidelity . A sophisticated Roll in Roll out (RoRo) cockpit exchange system allows a rapid switch from fixed base to motion simulator and back within a few hours. Unique computing infrastructure with more than 50 computers and several kilometers of data cables enable the distributed simulation of complex flying platforms. In house developed simulation components, products, and infrastructures offer maximum flexibility to meet diverse client needs.
Airbus A320 ATRA
The simulation cockpit of the Airbus A320 ATRA is designed to a Level D quality. The cockpit and its components are based on the real ATRA. The appearance of the cockpit control mimics the original. Replicas of all displays and control elements are available.
Captain and First Officer side sticks are designed as active elements and can be coupled or decoupled on demand. A sound system with six speakers and a subwoofer provides a realistic simulation of flight and system noises. In the rear cabin an operator station with two seats is installed. In total 5 people (3 in the cockpit, 2 in the operator cabin) can fly in the simulated A320.
The simulation model of the A320 is developed by the Institute of Flight System using MATLAB / Simulink. In addition to the flight dynamics including ground handling, the software contains all flight management, autopilot and flight control functions of the system. On the basis of flight tests with ATRA, the simulator software has been validated in certain areas of the flight envelope.
Eurocopter EC135 FHS
The simulation cockpit of the Eurocopter EC135 is designed as a replica of the FHS in Level D quality. In addition to the pilot seats, also the Flight Test Engineer (FTE) seat and a further observer seat are installed.
The observer seat and the FTE seat are accessible through the operator cabin in the rear of the cockpit; the pilots on the other hand climb in through the doors, as in the real helicopter. A sound system with six speakers provides a realistic simulation of the flight and system noises of the helicopter.
An active control loading system with eight actuators including load sensors provides the ability to flexibly produce control loads for the pilot. Mechanical arrangements for the integration of active side stick complete the cockpit. A total of 5 individuals (4 in the cockpit, 1 in operator cabin) can fly in the simulated EC135.
The cockpit currently supports an EC135 simulation model implemented in ADI ADSIM modeling language and a generic helicopter simulation model in Matlab / Simulink.
The objective of system simulation is to provide effective means of flight test preparation for the flying test beds: ATRA and FHS. Therefore, all relevant system properties of the flying test beds are replicated in AVES. During system simulation all data flows in the real systems of ATRA, and FHS, are recreated in AVES very accurately.
The applications of AVES include an experimental rack. It can be operated via the same interface both in the simulation environment of AVES as well as onboard the DLR research aircraft ATRA. The capabilities of the experimental rack as a modular platform can be augmented by the installation of new components such as telemetry, sensors or computers with different operating systems.
With AVES the experimental rack can be used for system development and efficient flight test preparation. Moreover it is able to query the control devices of the simulator cockpit and feed its screens. The environment simulation in AVES includes a traffic server to generate surrounding air traffic and a simulation of the flight surveillance system ADS-B and is extended as needed.
The experimental rack was used onboard ATRA among others to test a wake turbulence warning system in flight experiments as well as for system identification in real time.
→ Wake turbulence - DLR tests warning system in flight experiments
→ Qiet and fuel-efficient landing - simulator tests for a new pilot assistance system
It is dangerous to fly if you can not fly
The aviation industry is a real success story in terms of safety, which is significantly driven by the effective training of the flight crews. AVES is used to further optimize the training of the flight crew. The relationship between the flight simulator fidelity and the training effectiveness are to be examined in future research. The training effectiveness which is the measure of the learning effect experienced by a pilot in the simulator, and its transferability to the real aircraft is to be studied in more detail.
The airliner pilot’s environment has been subject to an impressive development in recent years. A study conducted by the Institute of Flight Systems in cooperation with the German pilot union (Vereinigung Cockpit) in 2010 confirmed that today's pilots need to have besides manual flying skills, an understanding of the complex process of modern flight management systems (ATC skills) and (especially / the necessary) social skills in the cockpit (soft skills).
This change in their environment has had a dramatic impact on pilot training. The training of manual flying skills using small aircraft is losing its significance. On the contrary, the importance of simulators in training has increased especially with respect to crew resource management (CRM). For this reason, the new Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL) was introduced in 2006, in which a large part of the training is carried out using simulators.
In the field of helicopter flight similar developments can be observed, the cockpits are also increasingly automated, but for helicopters the flying skills are still of greater importance.
Flying Qualities of new Configurations
The future development of new transport aircraft configurations such as flying wings requires intensive studies of the specific flight characteristics as early as possible in the development phase. Previous research in the field of in-flight simulation has highlighted deficits in the flying characteristics which have to be examined in more detail by extensive studies using AVES.
New configurations of hybrid rotary wing, which take the advantages of both rotary and fixed wing such as the optimized performance for minimum takeoff and landing distances are planned to be studied in AVES