On 17 June 2019, during the 53rd Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the French research organisation ONERA (Office National d’Études et de Recherches Aérospatiales) met at the DLR stand to agree their collaboration in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Over time, this cooperation could be used as a basis to establish a 'virtual' Franco-German AI research centre for the European aerospace sector.
DLR and ONERA have defined five core topics for their joint research:
- human-machine interaction and work sharing between Unmanned Aerial Systems (UA) and human operators
- predictive maintenance using concepts such as digital twins or structural health monitoring that involve the development of smart vehicle structures that 'sense' damage, for example
- automation within logistics and interactive robotics
- intelligent flight control systems
- new reconnaissance technologies
The agreement was signed on behalf of DLR by Pascale Ehrenfreund, Chair of the Executive Board, Rolf Henke, Executive Board Member for Aeronautics, and Hansjörg Dittus, Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology. For ONERA, CEO Bruno Sainjon signed the agreement. DLR institutes will contribute their experience in AI and machine learning from very different research areas. Among the key players will be scientists from aeronautics and other disciplines within aerospace research, such as robotics and Earth observation.
The partners also used the opportunity to extend a successful cooperation for the fourth time. DLR and ONERA have been working together as part of the Measurement and Observation Techniques for Aerospace Research (MOTAR) cooperation agreement since 2015. This involves joint research into airborne optical remote sensing. They will use the extension to collaborate in the development of joint measurement techniques for large-scale test facilities and flight tests.
Artificial intelligence within DLR
Artificial intelligence is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather enables task-oriented smart solutions for many current challenges. AI methods have been an important element of DLR research for many years and are being improved for numerous use cases within industry and society as a whole – among them Earth observation, robotics, energy research, the development of assistance systems for air or road traffic management, and automated driving.
ONERA has been developing research on artificial intelligence techniques since the mid-1970s. Today, this work aims in particular to support the digital transformation of all sciences and technologies in the aerospace and defence sector. The technical fields of AI in which ONERA is particularly involved are: artificial perception, system autonomy and robotics, learning dynamic system models or behaviours for physical simulation and phenomenon prediction, logic and decision making.