12. May 2021
Conclusion of the DLR VicToria project

Down to the last de­tail – air­craft de­vel­op­ment goes dig­i­tal

Visible deformations
Vis­i­ble de­for­ma­tions
Image 1/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Visible deformations

The wings of the A320 ATRA were cov­ered with a spe­cial foil to op­ti­cal­ly mea­sure de­for­ma­tions dur­ing flight.
Vir­tu­al flight test
Video 2/6, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Virtual flight test

Length: 00:00:13
A vir­tu­al flight test to iden­ti­fy the flight dy­nam­ic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the A320-ATRA. From the iden­ti­fied char­ac­ter­is­tics, a sim­pli­fied but re­al-time ca­pa­ble mod­el will be built, with which, among oth­er things, nov­el flight con­trol sys­tems for gust load re­duc­tion can be test­ed.
ATRA flight tests
Video 3/6, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

ATRA flight tests

Length: 00:00:20
The de­vel­op­ment of high­ly ac­cu­rate nu­mer­i­cal meth­ods and their cou­pling with sim­u­la­tions re­quires high-qual­i­ty val­i­da­tion da­ta. Dur­ing the Vic­To­ria flight test­ing cam­paigns with the Air­bus A320 ATRA, wing de­for­ma­tion was record­ed. The flight pro­gramme con­tained a large num­ber of ma­noeu­vres, some with very high load fac­tors.
Sig­nif­i­cant wing de­for­ma­tion
Video 4/6, Credit: © DLR. All rights reserved

Significant wing deformation

Length: 00:00:16
In this ex­am­ple ma­noeu­vre from the Vic­To­ria flight test cam­paign with the Air­bus A320 ATRA, a pitch­ing mo­tion was stim­u­lat­ed via chang­ing el­e­va­tor in­puts. This is al­so re­flect­ed in the load fac­tor and con­se­quent­ly in the record­ed wing de­for­ma­tion.
Measurement instruments in the aircraft
Mea­sure­ment in­stru­ments in the air­craft
Image 5/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Measurement instruments in the aircraft

The stereo cam­era sys­tem in­side the ATRA was di­rect­ed to­wards the wings. The cam­eras mea­sured wing de­for­ma­tion dur­ing flight ma­noeu­vres.
Configuration of the digital research aircraft
Con­fig­u­ra­tion of the dig­i­tal re­search air­craft
Image 6/6, Credit: DLR (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Configuration of the digital research aircraft

The com­put­er sim­u­la­tion shows how the wings de­form dur­ing a flight ma­noeu­vre. It is a re­search air­craft con­fig­u­ra­tion. The re­searchers were able to de­sign a long-range air­craft us­ing their sim­u­la­tion meth­ods, val­i­dat­ed with flight test da­ta.
  • In future, new technologies for more cost effective and environmentally friendly flying can first be tested with the help of simulations, then on actual aircraft.
  • Thirteen DLR institutes have jointly developed methods to design aircraft (almost) solely using computers.
  • Results have been verified with the ATRA research aircraft and simulation models improved.
  • Focus: Digitalisation, aeronautics

The wings flex, the fuel tank contents slosh, the loading of passengers and cargo varies from flight to flight – aircraft are highly complex systems influenced by numerous variables. What are the implications if some of them change? Or all of them? From now on, the answers are only a few mouse clicks away. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have developed a basis for the complete digital development and description of an aircraft in the Virtual Aircraft Technology Integration Platform (VicToria) project.

Thirteen DLR institutes with more than 160 researchers were involved in the VicToria project."We are now able to carry out virtual flight tests that can be matched in detail with real flight tests," explains Stefan Görtz, the VicToria Project Manager from the DLR Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology in Braunschweig. "This means we can build a virtual model of an aircraft or helicopter with all its characteristics." These can be used, for example, to improve passenger comfort during gusts or flight manoeuvres. But it extends far beyond that – DLR can virtually design, test and fly aircraft that do not yet exist. This includes the possibility of evaluating new technologies to make flying more environmentally friendly and cost effective.

Aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, load analysis, flight dynamics and structure all in one

"We are making steady progress towards the digitalisation of aeronautics," says Görtz. DLR has brought together all the relevant disciplines – aerodynamics, aeroelasticity, load analysis, flight dynamics and structure – in the VicToria project, which has run for four years with an expenditure of 36 million euros. The virtual tests with a 'digital twin' of the DLR Advanced Technology Research Aircraft (ATRA) were verified using data from wind tunnel tests and actual flights. This allowed the simulation models to be constantly updated. For example, a stereo camera system measured the deformation of the wings during various flight manoeuvres.

The idea of designing a purely digital process for developing and certifying an aircraft was born almost 50 years ago. At the time, it was believed that real flight testing could soon be dispensed with; this was a mistake. Not only was the performance of computers limited at that time, but complex airflows, for example, could not yet be represented correctly. This is now possible with the help of numerical simulation. In the meantime, researchers believe that the development process will increasingly rely on simulations and that, in future, first flights will take place virtually in a computer. This will enable financial and economic risks to be mitigated. Real-life flight experiments will then be conducted for verification and confirmation. Future certification of aircraft and helicopters using computer-based simulations is now getting closer. DLR is also working on corresponding simulation tools in the Simulation Based Certification (SimBaCon) project.

An in-depth interview with Stefan Görtz on the digitalisation of aeronautics was published in DLRmagazine 167.

DLR institutes and facilities involved

Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology, Institute of Aeroelasticity, Institute of Propulsion Technology, Institute of Structures and Design, Institute of Composite Structures and Adaptive Systems,Institute of Flight Systems, Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics, Institute of System Dynamics and Control, Institute for Software Technology, Flight Experiments Facility, Systemhaus Technik, Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualization, German-Dutch Wind Tunnels.

The A320 ATRA

The Airbus A320 Advanced Technology Research Aircraft (ATRA) is the largest member of the DLR aircraft fleet. ATRA is unique because it is a combination of a commercial aircraft and a flexible research infrastructure component. In addition to an interface providing access to a wide range of aircraft parameters, almost any experiment-specific modifications can be carried out on the aircraft.

  • Katja Lenz
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Re­la­tions
    Telephone: +49 2203 601-5401
    Linder Höhe
    51147 Cologne
  • Prof. Dr. Stefan Görtz
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    In­sti­tute of Aero­dy­nam­ics and Flow Tech­nol­o­gy
    Lilienthalplatz 7
    38108 Braunschweig


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