DG 300 Elan-17 - out of op­er­a­tion

DG 300-17 high-performance glider
DLR's DG 300-17 high-per­for­mance glid­er
Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

DLR's DG 300-17 high-performance glider

The Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter's (DLR) DG 300-17 mea­sures the speed po­lar of oth­er glid­ers. The re­sults of these mea­sure­ments make it pos­si­ble to in­crease the cruise speed of non-pow­ered air­craft.

The single-seat DG 300-17, made of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), may look like an ordinary glider, but it is in fact quite extraordinary. The performance of the DG 300 has been accurately measured and it is used as a reference to assess the performance of other gliders. In cooperation with the Technische Universität (TU) Braunschweig, it has been specially equipped with the instruments needed for this task. It thus acts as a measuring device for other gliders - in a way, it is the calibration standard for determining their speed polars. The speed polar shows the rate of descent of an aircraft versus its horizontal airspeed.

An important condition for an accurate evaluation of other gliders is that the performance differential between both aircrafts should not be significant. In order to find a good compromise to match the broad performance spectrum of all types of gliders, the DG 300-17 has a wingspan of 17 metres, two metres more than the standard version - hence the type designator "17". The DG 300 was designed by Wilhelm Dirks and manufactured on behalf of DG Flugzeugbau GmbH by the Slovenian company Elan. In the past, the relative motion between both gliders was determined from photos in a quite complex manual procedure. However, today, DGPS data (Differential Global Positioning System) are used for accurate positioning.


The following modifications differentiate the DG 300-17 from the standard DG 300 Elan:

  • Multi-hole probes mounted on the nose of the aircraft
  • Measuring system for recording air data, orientation angle, GPS position and pilot control inputs (under supervision of the Institute of Flight Guidance of the TU Braunschweig)

Missions - research focus

The DG 300-17 high-performance glider is deployed for the following research experiments:

The DG 300-17 measures the speed polar of other gliders. The results of these measurements make it possible to increase the cruise speed of non-powered aircraft. Determining the speed polar is a complex procedure: all absolute measurements will lead to distorted results as they will always be influenced by the movement of the air mass in which the aircraft flies. This can be solved by using a comparison flight procedure. This technique measures the relative motion of a glider in relation to the calibration glider, rather than its absolute motion in relation to the ground. In this way, distortions caused by large-scale movement of air masses are eliminated: both the calibration glider and the glider that is being measured fly in the same air mass. However, even this procedure requires calm weather conditions and free of turbulence if one wants to obtain sufficient accurate results.

In order to qualify the DG 300-17 as a calibration aircraft, it is not only equipped with the necessary instrumentation system but it is also serviced with special care by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Even small scratches on the coating could alter its performance and eventually make the aircraft useless as a calibration standard. For this reason, the DG 300-17 is used in calibration flights only and its performance is checked in continuously repeated control surveys.

Technical dataDG 300-17
Length:6.8 metres
Height:1.39 metres
Wingspan:17 metres
Total mass:550 kilogramms
Water ballast:130 to 190 litres
Wing loading:maximum 51 kilogrammes per square metre
Best glide ratio:41 at 122 kilometers per hour
Undercarriage:Sprung retractable undercarriage , assisted by a gas strut
Maximum speed:270 kilometers per hour
Minimum speed:65 kilometers per hour
DLR flight facility:Braunschweig
  • Stefan Seydel
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Flight Ex­per­i­ments
    Head of De­part­ment Flight Op­er­a­tions
    Telephone: +49 531 295-2240
    Lilienthalplatz 7
    38108 Braunschweig

Main menu