22. June 2020
Test flights in Zurich with the DLR A320 ATRA research aircraft

LNAS pi­lot as­sis­tance sys­tem en­ables qui­eter and more fu­el-ef­fi­cient land­ing ap­proach­es

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Aeronautics
Airbus A320 ATRA on the ground
Air­bus A320 ATRA on the ground
Image 1/2, Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Airbus A320 ATRA on the ground

DLR Air­bus A320 ATRA re­search air­craft be­fore its de­par­ture from Düben­dorf Air Base near Zurich.
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The DLR Pi­lot As­sis­tance Sys­tem LNAS
Video 2/2, Credit: YouTube/Empa
  • During more than 90 approaches to Zurich Airport conducted under the leadership of the Swiss SkyLab Foundation, researchers from Empa and DLR tested an assistance system that supports pilots via a display during quiet and, at the same time, fuel-efficient approaches.
  • The results show a measurable reduction in noise emissions and fuel consumption.
  • The system, developed by DLR, is now to be brought to production maturity.
  • Focus: Aeronautics, quieter flight

During more than 90 approaches to Zurich Airport conducted under the leadership of the Swiss SkyLab Foundation, researchers from Empa and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) tested an assistance system that supports pilots via a display during quiet and, at the same time, fuel-efficient approaches. The results show a measurable reduction in noise emissions and fuel consumption. Now the system, developed by DLR, is to be made ready for production.

Approach and landing are among the most labour-intensive flight phases. Pilots have to manage airspeed, altitude, engine thrust, and the deployment of flaps, airbrakes and landing gear. At the same time, they must react to changing wind conditions, the presence of other aircraft and instructions from air traffic controllers. A similar principle applies here as it does for drivers on the road – anticipatory driving allows fuel savings. Predictive flying also reduces noise emissions. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has developed an assistance system for continuous descent that, via a display in the flight deck, advises pilots on courses of action for an environmentally friendly landing approach. The Low Noise Augmentation System (LNAS) calculates the optimum altitude, sink rate, airspeed and configuration of the aircraft, and dynamically adjusts the recommendations during the approach. In September 2019, more than 90 test approaches were made to Zurich Airport's Runway 14 with the LNAS assistance system installed on board DLR's A320 ATRA (Advanced Technology Research Aircraft). Seventy comparable approaches were analysed in the evaluation. The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt; Empa) tested the effectiveness of the system with a series of noise measurements along the approach route. The results are now available and have been submitted to the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA).

Assistance system for low-noise approaches
Assistance system for low-noise approaches
The Low Noise Augmentation System (LNAS) has been developed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR). Here, the assistance system is using an electronic flight bag display to show DLR test pilot Jens Heider exactly when he has to perform each action in order to conduct a low-noise approach.
Credit: DLR (CC-BY 3.0)

Maximum precision during approach – a competition between pilot and computer

For the flight tests, 23 pilots from the airlines Swiss, Edelweiss and Lufthansa were divided into two groups. Fourteen pilots used the LNAS assistance system and were shown the best times for extending the flaps and landing gear, thus completing an approach optimised for low noise and fuel consumption. The other nine attempted to fly as quietly and fuel-efficiently as possible without LNAS computer support. On each approach, the aircraft was flown by one of the participating airline pilots, with a DLR test pilot acting as co-pilot. Each of the 70 approaches considered began at 7000 feet (2100 metres above sea level) and 220 knots (approximately 400 kilometres per hour). Forty-three approaches were flown using LNAS and 27 without LNAS. The A320 ATRA was stationed at and operated from Dübendorf Air Base, where scientific research campaigns are regularly conducted.

The flight data evaluated by DLR shows that the pilots using LNAS flew the descent much more uniformly and precisely than the colleagues flying without the assistance system. The changes in airspeed were also significantly smoother when using LNAS. The use of noise-intensive airbrakes was completely eliminated on approaches with LNAS.

Height and speed profiles
Height and speed profiles
The vertical profiles (left) and the airspeeds (right) were flown very smoothly with LNAS (blue).
Credit: DLR
Noise measurement
Noise measurement
Measurement chain along the approach path to runway 14 at Zurich Airport.
Credit: Empa

Noticeable reduction in sound levels

The central focus of the LNAS assistance system is the reduction of acoustic outliers, which contribute disproportionately to noise pollution. Some particularly loud approaches are especially annoying for those residing near the flightpath. Using LNAS, it was possible to avoid these outliers and thus make even the loudest approaches up to three decibels quieter, which corresponds to a reduction of the perceived volume by approximately one third.

The noise emissions of the flight tests were recorded by six measurement stations located between approximately 6.3 and 18 kilometres before the touchdown point. For this purpose, measuring points were also set up on German territory in the district of Waldshut. At the most distant measurement points – Hasle and Steinrütte – located approximately 18 and 16.5 kilometres from the touchdown point, respectively, a mean reduction of around one decibel was observed. Between Kaiserstuhl and Weiach, approximately 10 to 13 kilometres before the touchdown point, the average difference in noise levels was up to 1.8 decibels.

Subsequently, the approaches were simulated with the Empa sonAIR aircraft noise model using the flight and meteorological parameters in order to be able to draw conclusions even in areas where no measurement stations could be set up. The noise maps calculated using sonAIR confirm the experimental results and show an additional reduction potential in the southern Black Forest, approximately 24 kilometres from the runway threshold, with a significant average noise level reduction of up to three decibels.

Overflight sound levels along the approach route
Overflight sound levels along the approach route
Measured event levels (integral of the entire overflight) along the approach route to runway 14 at Zurich Airport – with LNAS (blue) and without LNAS (red).
Credit: Empa

An optimal landing with less carbon dioxide emissions

By comparing the approaches performed by the two groups of pilots, the researchers also determined the average fuel savings that can be achieved with LNAS. During the last 50 kilometres before the runway, the pilots with LNAS needed an average of 8.9 kilograms less kerosene than those flying without LNAS. Extrapolated to all Swiss A320 flights (flight movements in 2017), LNAS could thus save around 500 tonnes of kerosene per year. Since the assistance system can be used at cruising altitude, that is, from 200218 kilometres before the runway, the potential for savings is even greater. Conservatively calculated, the annual savings amount to 3000 tonnes of kerosene, which corresponds to about 9000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, even if only the Swiss A320 fleet were to be equipped with LNAS.

The delivery of the final report to FOCA marks the conclusion of a three-year research project involving the Swiss SkyLab Foundation, Empa and DLR. During the five-day test flight campaign, the Swiss Air Force made its Dübendorf Air Base available for the stationing of DLR's ATRA research aircraft. Skyguide provided advice and assistance during the development phase and enabled the large number of approaches to be conducted. Zurich airport made it possible to carry out noise measurements outside Switzerland.

Simulation of aircraft noise based on the measurement data
Simulation of aircraft noise based on the measurement data
Simulation of aircraft noise on the basis of measured data using Empa’s sonAIR simulation program. Dotted line: with LNAS; solid line: without LNAS. At 24 kilometres from the runway, in the middle of the southern Black Forest, a significant noise reduction is apparent (dark blue).
Credit: Empa

The project is funded by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation through special funding for air transport (in accordance with Art. 87b BV: Order on the application of the earmarked mineral oil tax for air transport measures to limit the impact of aviation on the environment), the Office of Transport at the Canton of Zurich Department for Economic Affairs, the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), and financial resources made available by the project partners themselves.

Follow-on EU research project DYNCAT

From July 2020, DLR will coordinate the launch of the advanced research project DYNCAT (Dynamic Configuration Adjustment in the TMA), in which Swiss and the electronics group Thales Avionics will participate in addition to the existing research partners. The aim of the research, which is being funded under the European programmes Horizon 2020 and SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research), is to integrate the capabilities of the LNAS assistance system developed by DLR into the central navigation computers of commercial aircraft. This would enable noise and fuel-consumption-optimised landing approaches to be introduced on board many existing commercial aircraft.

More images of the LNAS/ATRA flight tests in Zurich on Flickr

Swiss SkyLab Foundation

SkyLab is a foundation established in 2016 to promote the scientific use of research flight platforms in Switzerland. SkyLab works together with the Switzerland Innovation Park Zurich via the Space Hub of the University of Zurich (UZH). SkyLab and UZH organise regular Swiss Parabolic Flight Campaigns from the Dübendorf airfield for research in microgravity. In the medium term, SkyLab is pursuing the development of the Dübendorf site into a research airfield.

Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Eidgenössische Materialprüfungsanstalt; Empa)

Empa is an interdisciplinary research institute in the ETH Domain specialising in application-oriented materials and technology research. It has three locations – Dübendorf, St. Gallen and Thun.

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
  • Fethi Abdelmoula
    Project Man­ag­er LNAS
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Flight Sys­tems
    Telephone: +49 531 295-3108
    Lilienthalplatz 7
    38108 Braunschweig
    Contact
  • Rainer Klose
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Swiss Fed­er­al Lab­o­ra­to­ries for Ma­te­ri­als Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy (Em­pa)
    Telephone: +41 58 765-4733
    Contact
  • Jean Marc Wunderli
    Head of Acous­tics Noise Re­duc­tion De­part­ment
    Swiss Fed­er­al Lab­o­ra­to­ries for Ma­te­ri­als Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy (Em­pa)
    Telephone: +41 58 765-4748
    Contact
  • Martin Gerber
    Over­all Project Man­ag­er
    Swiss Sky­Lab Foun­da­tion
    Telephone: +41 79 349-1070
    Contact

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