Wake vortex research with ATRA A320
Wake vor­tex re­search with ATRA A320
Image 1/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Wake vortex research with ATRA A320

Air swirls in the wake of air­craft are a re­sult of the lift gen­er­at­ed at the wings; as in­vis­i­ble wake vor­tices, they can per­sist along the flight path for quite some time. In flight tests last year, DLR is test­ing a wake vor­tex warn­ing sys­tem with the re­search air­craft ATRA and Fal­con.
DLR research aircraft ATRA
DLR re­search air­craft ATRA
Image 2/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

DLR research aircraft ATRA

The Air­bus A320-232 "D-ATRA", the lat­est - and largest - ad­di­tion to the fleet, was de­ployed by the Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (Deutsches Zen­trum für Luft- und Raum­fahrt; DLR) in late 2008. ATRA (Ad­vanced Tech­nol­o­gy Re­search Air­craft) is a mod­ern and flex­i­ble flight test plat­form which sets a new bench­mark for fly­ing test beds in Eu­ro­pean aerospace re­search - and not just be­cause of its size.
DLR research aircraft ATRA (Advanced Technologie Research Aircraft)
DLR re­search air­craft ATRA (Ad­vanced Tech­nolo­gie Re­search Air­craft)
Image 3/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

DLR research aircraft ATRA (Advanced Technologie Research Aircraft)

The Air­bus A320-232 'D-ATRA', the largest ad­di­tion to the fleet, was de­ployed by DLR in late 2008.
The ATRA during flight tests in Cochstedt
The ATRA dur­ing flight tests in Cochst­edt
Image 4/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The ATRA during flight tests in Cochstedt

The DLR ATRA re­search air­craft flies at an al­ti­tude of around 15 me­tres over the air­port at Cochst­edt with its land­ing gear re­tract­ed. The aim is to col­lect as many in­sects as pos­si­ble in or­der to test out new flap sys­tems. Al­though in­sect con­tam­i­na­tion does not present a prob­lem, the ingress of in­sects will lead to high­er fu­el con­sump­tion for fu­ture ul­tra-smooth high-tech air­craft.
Frontal view of ATRA
Frontal view of ATRA
Image 5/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Frontal view of ATRA

The Air­bus A320 D-ATRA is 37.57 me­tres in length, 11.76 me­tres high and has a wing span of 34.10 me­tres.
DLR research aircraft A320-232 'D-ATRA'
DLR re­search air­craft A320-232 'D-ATRA'
Image 6/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

DLR research aircraft A320-232 'D-ATRA'

ATRA (Ad­vanced Tech­nolo­gies Re­search Air­craft) is an in­dis­pens­able part of Ger­man and Eu­ro­pean aero­nau­tics re­search. The new re­search air­craft, equipped with a fu­el cell sys­tem, will help to re­search the press­ing chal­lenges of the fu­ture for a clean and ef­fi­cient air trans­port.
Exterior view of ATRA
Ex­te­ri­or view of ATRA
Image 7/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Exterior view of ATRA

ATRA (Ad­vanced Tech­nol­o­gy Re­search Air­craft) is a mod­ern and flex­i­ble flight test plat­form which sets a new bench­mark for fly­ing test beds in Eu­ro­pean aerospace re­search - and not just be­cause of its size.
The high-lift system of the Airbus A320-232 'D-ATRA'
The high-lift sys­tem of the Air­bus A320-232 'D-ATRA'
Image 8/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

The high-lift system of the Airbus A320-232 'D-ATRA'

Air trans­port faces a va­ri­ety of chal­lenges. Due to the glob­al in­crease in air traf­fic vol­ume, en­hanc­ing aero­dy­nam­ic ef­fi­cien­cy dur­ing the take-off and land­ing phas­es, as well re­duc­ing flight noise, will be­come even more im­por­tant than be­fore. As a part­ner in a va­ri­ety of na­tion­al and Eu­ro­pean re­search projects, DLR is meet­ing these chal­lenges head on.The de­sign and de­vel­op­ment of com­plex flap and trans­mis­sion sys­tems with far-reach­ing ef­fects on the take-off and land­ing prop­er­ties as well as the noise emis­sion of air­craft, is there­fore one of DLR's core re­search ar­eas. In co­op­er­a­tion with the high-lift sys­tems de­part­ment of Air­bus in Bre­men, DLR ex­plores cur­rent re­search ques­tions.
ATRA is baptised
ATRA is bap­tised
Image 9/9, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

ATRA is baptised

In April 2010, the DLR re­search air­craft ATRA was named Ot­to Lilien­thal, af­ter the Ger­man avi­a­tion pi­o­neer.

The Airbus A320-232 'D-ATRA', has been in service for the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) since late 2008. and is the largest member of its fleet. The Advanced Technology Research Aircraft (ATRA) is a flexible modern flight research platform that is setting new benchmarks for airborne test vehicles in European aeronautics research.


Basic FTI

The basic Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) system is used for recording aircraft data that relate to experiments and transferring them to the user's experimental systems.

The basic FTI is being further developed and ATRA’s range of applications are being expanded over the course of the utilisation phase. Many future improvements and modifications to the test vehicle will be strongly tied to specific scientific experiments, in which case they will only be temporary. Requirements in terms of modularity, expandability, simplicity, reliability and durability will be met by adopting widespread standards in selecting components and structures.

Missions – key areas of research

ATRA is used in the following areas:

  • Testing of aeroelastic measurement methods
  • Studies of interior acoustics
  • Airflow noise measurements
  • Aerodynamic measurements on the wings and the empennage with the aim of saving fuel
  • Testing of the latest measurement techniques such as Image Pattern Correlation Technique (IPCT), an optical method of measuring the flexing of wings
  • Detection of wake vortices and the study of algorithms for avoidance. These are air turbulence that results from the lift generated by the wings
  • Engine measurements
  • Research into alternative fuels
  • Testing of state-of-the-art navigation and communication technologies for aircraft
  • Improvement of the latest pilot assistance systems and testing of the modern display technologies
  • Research into low-noise approach and departure procedures
  • Studies on pilot workload and work distribution

Wake vortex research with ATRA

Vortices occur behind aircraft as a result of the lift generated by the wings. These invisible wake vortices may remain present along the flightpath for a considerable time. Because of this, strict safety distances are specified for commercial aircraft – not just in cruise flight, but particularly near the ground, during take-offs and landings. These determine the take-off and landing intervals at large airports and may lead to bottlenecks in capacity during peak traffic times. This results in holding patterns and delays, which are undesirable for passengers and airlines alike.

To prevent aircraft from flying into wake turbulence, DLR is developing a system for tactical, aircraft-based wake vortex warnings and avoidance during all phases of flight. This is the Airborne Wake Encounter Avoidance and Advisory System (WEAA). Wake vortex behaviour and possible conflicts are calculated based on weather and flight data. Warnings and course deviations are recommended to pilots in the cockpit for this purpose. Initial flight tests with the ATRA and the DLR's Falcon 20E-5 research aircraft have already been successful and demonstrate the viability of the concept.

High-lift research with ATRA for efficient take-off and landing phases

Air transport is facing an array of challenges. Increasing worldwide air traffic means that increased aerodynamic performance during the take-off and landing phases is becoming more important, along with the need to reduce aircraft noise. DLR is addressing these challenges as part of various German and European research projects.

The design and development of complex high-lift systems, which have a considerable impact on take-off and landing characteristics and on aircraft noise emissions, are among DLR’s key areas of research. DLR is conducting research into these issues in cooperation with the High-Lift Systems division of Airbus in Bremen.

Technical dataAirbus A320 'D-ATRA'
Length:37.57 metres
Height:11.76 metres
Wingspan:34.10 metres
Cabin length:29.10 metres
Cabin width:3.7 metres
Cabin height:2.4 metres
Seats:maximum 179
Unladen weight:42.3 tonnes
Propulsion system:maximum 75.5 tonnes
Engines:two International Aero Engine V2500 engines
Thrust:111 kilonewton each
Range:4800 – 5700 kilometres
Maximum altitude:maximum 11,800 metres (39,000 feet)
Speed:maximum 840 kilometres per hour
Flight duration:up to seven hours
Fuel capacity:approximately 24,000 litres
Original use:civilian use as a passenger plane
DLR Flight Operations:Braunschweig

  • Martin Gestwa
    Head of Flight Fa­cil­i­ty Braun­schweig
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Flight Ex­per­i­ments
    Telephone: +49 531 295-2240
    Lilienthalplatz 7
    38108 Braunschweig

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