Forest fires pose an enormous threat to people, wildlife and woodlands. Due to global warming, forest fires are becoming an increasing problem worldwide. The aviation sector has a crucial role to play in combating forest fires. Aerial firefighting reduces the intensity of fires and slows their spread, while also making firefighting on the ground safer. It is a collaborative effort and requires interaction between the different response assets. One example is the need for synergies between aircraft design, fleet design and the associated operational concepts. The DLR Design Challenge 2022 addresses this issue. The aim of the competition is to generate ideas for modernising airborne forest firefighting, which is currently very expensive and often conducted using outdated equipment. The focus is on new designs and operating concepts that boost firefighting capabilities, while ensuring greater extinguishing efficiency and lower costs. Short or even vertical take-off and landing procedures should allow the aircraft to collect water from sources such as lakes near the area of the forest fire. This is the task that the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has set for students across Germany.
This year’s competition is being organised by the DLR Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics, under the leadership of Institute Director Bjorn Nagel. At the launch event on 9 March 2022, a total of 42 students from seven teams from five different universities attended a virtual introduction via video conference. They were welcomed by Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, the Chair of the DLR Executive Board, and Markus Fischer, DLR Divisional Board Member Aeronautics and chair of the competition jury. DLR experts gave keynote speeches on aircraft design and system of systems fleet design to provide the students with a useful introduction to the topic. The participants also received an exclusive insight into the practical aspects of the project from Captain Jose Manuel García, a fire-fighting aircraft pilot from the Spanish Air Force. This was followed by the World Café, a virtual format in which the students had the opportunity to get to know the other teams and take away some initial ideas for their aircraft and fleet concepts.
The contestants now have until 11 July 2022 to prepare their proposals for the competition. The final projects are planned to be presented and the winners announced at the concluding event in mid-August. Three prizewinning teams will have the opportunity to speak at the German Aerospace Congress (DLRK 2022) in Dresden. The winning team will also be invited to give a presentation at the Congress of the International Council of the Aeronautical Sciences (ICAS 2022) in Stockholm.
A system of aircraft working together should be able to deliver at least 11,000 litres of water to a fire scene in a single firefighting mission. The number of aircraft and the payload per aircraft is up to the teams and should form part of the operational concept. In order to draw water from small sources in the vicinity of the fire, the aircraft must be capable of vertical or short take-off and landing operations. The students can draw upon the full range of options when designing the subsystem for water intake/discharge and the propulsion system architecture, including energy storage. To reduce costs, it should be possible to manufacture the aircraft together with a passenger or cargo version on a single production line. The task includes designing the firefighting aircraft and a fleet for its effective use. The aim is to maximise the amount of water that can be transported to the scene of the fire within 24 hours.
|Maximum take-off weight||5670 kilograms|
|Distance from base to site of fire||75 nautical miles|
|Distance from site of fire to water source||15 nautical miles|
|Altitude of base||1000 feet|
|Altitude of site of fire and water source||2000 feet|
|Temperature||Int. Standard Atmosphere + 20 degrees Celsius|
|Minimum service ceiling altitude||8000 feet|
|Entry into service||2030|
All other information about the assignment (in German)
The jury will select the winners on the basis of independent expert opinions.
- Chair: Markus Fischer, DLR Divisional Board Member Aeronautics
- Members: Institute directors from DLR's aeronautics research field
|7 March 2022||Registration deadline for the teams via email from their supervising university faculty member|
|9 March 2022||Virtual kick-off event, announcement of the specific task|
|11 April 2022||Q&A session to answer questions about the assignment, held virtually|
|11 July 2022||Submission of the competition reports in English (maximum 25 pages; content from your own Bachelor’s and Master’s degree theses may be included)|
|4 August 2022||Closing event at DLR, presentation of the projects and award ceremony|
|4 - 9 September 2022||Winning team invited to present their work at ICAS 2022|
|27 - 29 September 2022||Invitation of the three best teams to present their work at the DLRK 2022|
|October 2022||Invitation to a workshop on airborne forest firefighting at a DLR site|