14. May 2020
Autonomous delivery of goods from the air

The DLR/NASA Design Challenge seeks new ideas for package delivery drones in inner-city areas

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Aeronautics
Integration of unmanned aircraft into the air transport system
Integration of unmanned aircraft into the air transport system
Credit: DLR/Getty Images

Integration of unmanned aircraft into the air transport system

The integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into air traffic is an increasingly important topic. When parcel drones and air taxis enter the airspace, they will have to share it with the current users of the sky. How can the safety of road users and people on the ground be guaranteed? DLR is currently developing an air traffic management system that includes both manned and unmanned aircraft.

Focus: Aeronautics

Reaching remote regions of the world in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly way is a concern for the future. Last year, a team of five students from Stuttgart showed how this could be done with their 'HyBird' design, once again demonstrating the creative potential of the next generation of researchers in the DLR/NASA Design Challenge. In 2020, this international competition is back for its fourth year, with a focus on the theme of urban air mobility. This time, the participating students from six German universities will be concentrating on package delivery drones. Their ideas are expected to create new concepts for autonomous, reliable airborne systems that can be used to deliver goods in inner-city areas. The competition organisers are looking specifically for a system that is designed for autonomous operation on demand, which can guarantee two independent return flights to destinations within a 15-kilometre radius, and which can cope with very constrained landing platforms.

The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the US aerospace agency, NASA, jointly set the task for students in Germany and the USA. To kick off the contest, the German participants attended a virtual introductory event via video conference on 7 May 2020. The contestants are now preparing their proposals for the competition. The German winners will present their work alongside the US winners in the autumn, at an event jointly organised by DLR and NASA.

The German and US aerospace agencies have worked closely for many years. In aeronautics research, both partners are particularly involved in joint research projects relating to air traffic management, low-consumption, low-noise flight, and fuel-efficient air transport. Joint test flights were conducted over Germany in 2018 to investigate emissions from alternative aviation fuels.

In Germany, 37 students – seven teams from six universities – have registered for the DLR/NASA Design Challenge. The universities involved are RWTH Aachen, TU Dresden, TU Hamburg, TU Munich, the University of the German Federal Armed Forces and the University of Stuttgart. The number of participants on the US side will also be in the double digits, with participating students from various universities. A winning team will be chosen in each nation.

The participants have until 15 July 2020 to prepare their design proposals and submit them to DLR. The winners will be announced in August.

Contact
  • Falk Dambowsky
    Editor
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Media Relations
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-3959
    Fax: +49 2203 601-3249
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
    Contact
  • Sebastian Wöhler
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics
    Hein-Saß-Weg 22
    21129 Hamburg
    Contact
  • Benjamin Fröhler
    German Aerospace Center (DLR)
    Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics
    Hein-Saß-Weg 22
    21129 Hamburg
    Contact

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