January 22, 2015

Timely forest fire detection from space, measuring pollutants in the Monsoon winds and mobility in the city of tomorrow

DLR research highlights in 2015

BIROS, a microsatellite capable of detecting forest fires from space, will be launched in 2015. The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) HALO atmospheric research aircraft will be flying through the Monsoon winds in the summer of 2015, investigating the effect of large-scale airflows on polluted air masses above India. DLR transport researchers will be observing the effect that new developments have on mobility in cities. These are among the many subjects that DLR researchers in the areas of space, aeronautics, energy, transport and security will be working on in 2015.

The theme for research work at DLR in 2015 will continue to be 'Knowledge for tomorrow' ('Wissen für Morgen'). Scientists will be working in interdisciplinary projects and collaborations, from basic research to applications. In addition to the aerospace sector, DLR is also heavily focusing on the areas of energy supply, mobility and security.

"The technologies that DLR is working on are some of the strongest technology drivers for Germany as a centre of business and science. They combine national skills and capabilities with pan-European activities," said Johann-Dietrich Wörner, Chairman of the DLR Executive Board. "We must also recognise that a paradigm shift is necessary. The requirements of society must be included in the research, and work should be carried out on how to deliver them. We should not merely focus on that which is possible and continue to develop things that already exist."


New A310 for DLR parabolic flight campaigns

In 2015, DLR will begin using the former German A310 ‘Chancellor Airbus’ for its scientific parabolic flight campaigns. As of April 2015 – following its conversion from a VIP jet to a research aircraft – the 'Konrad Adenauer' is due to be operated from its new home airport in Bordeaux, France, coducting microgravity research for DLR, ESA and the French space agency, CNES. The first DLR research campaign will start in Bordeaux on 31 August 2015.

Timely forest fire detection from space

The Bi-spectral Infrared Optical System (BIROS) microsatellite will begin operations in October 2015. It will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India. As with TET-1, which was sent into space in 2012, BIROS has an infrared camera on board. As part of the FIREBIRD mission, it will link up with TET-1 for accurate, timely detection of forest fires. The microsatellite was partly developed by the DLR Institute of Optical Sensor Systems in Berlin.

Earth observation 2.0 and a data highway in space

The launch of Sentinel-2A is planned for mid-May 2015. This will be the second of a total of six satellites for the new European Earth observation programme, Copernicus. Sentinel-3A is due to follow in autumn. Germany is heavily involved in the construction of the satellites. From 11 to 15 May 2015, DLR will also be hosting the 36th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of Environment (ISRSE), the world's leading Earth observation conference, in Berlin. In addition, the European Data Relay System (EDRS), a data link between low Earth orbit and geostationary satellites, will start to take shape. The first flight hardware will be launched into geostationary orbit (at an altitude of 36,000 kilometres) in the summer and optical data transfer put into operation. Germany has been leading ESA's EDRS programme for the planned European data highway in space.

New level of quality for weather forecasting

METimage is a project being worked on by the German aerospace industry, under the aegis of the DLR, with the objective of developing a globally unique, multispectral radiometer for meteorological applications. The three planned METimage instruments on satellites operated by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) are scheduled to be flying by 2021 and will enable reliable climate observations and weather forecasts to be made for over 20 years. A bilateral agreement between the DLR Space Administration and EUMETSAT is set to be signed in the summer of 2015. Also on the agenda are the corresponding industrial contracts for the construction and testing of the instruments. METimage is also the first national space programme run by the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur; BMVI).

Innovative radar technology

The German radar satellites TerraSAR-X and TanDEM-X have been orbiting Earth in formation flight and taking highly precise measurements since 2010. Since then, a data set of over 2500 terabytes has been acquired. This will now be used to generate a new global 3D map of the Earth by mid-2016. Very precise digital elevation models are already available for roughly 40 percent of Earth's landmass – for example, the whole of Australia, large parts of North and South America, Siberia, South and West Africa, and the first mountainous regions in north-east Russia and the Middle East. This experience will be put to use in a new, future-orientated radar mission. At present, a feasibility study, jointly carried out with the Japanese space agency JAXA, is investigating the implementation of the Tandem-L mission; a pair of satellites that will use innovative radar technology to image Earth’s entire landmass at high resolution and in three dimensions twice a week. With this high level of repeatability, it will be possible to capture Earth's dynamic and answer questions regarding the biosphere, geosphere, cryosphere and hydrosphere. This mission could be launched in 2020.

Reusability in space transport

From 2015, DLR will be making reusability in spaceflight the focus of a new programme. "It will only be possible to cut the cost of spaceflight when individual mission components can be reused," stressed DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology Hansjörg Dittus. Each flight will become a test laboratory; the researchers will then see how the returned components have reacted to the conditions of use and can be improved as a result. A flight experiment will be conducted every two years, during which the recycling of components will be studied. The first DLR experiment will start in three years.


Climate research – HALO flies into the Asian Monsoon region

The Oxidation Mechanism Observations (OMO) flight measurement campaign into the sphere of influence of the summer Monsoon in Asia is planned for the summer of 2015. The aim of the research campaign is to determine the influence of the Monsoon on the large-scale distribution of air pollution and on the assimilative capacity of the atmosphere. During the assimilation process, air pollutants are converted into compounds that are driven out of the atmosphere by means of precipitation. The OMO measurements will contribute to, among other things, the improved measurement of the effect of nitrogen oxides from air traffic on the concentration of the greenhouse gases ozone and methane. The first preparatory measurement flights over Europe using HALO will be carried out from the DLR site in Oberpfaffenhofen from the end of January. Under the coordination of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, scientists from the Jülich Research Centre, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the Universities of Bremen, Heidelberg and Wuppertal, as well as DLR are participating in the OMO campaigns.

Aircraft noise – DLR research project for interdisciplinary knowledge

In December 2013, DLR created a panel of specialists on aircraft noise, which has now initiated the four-year MIDAS project (Maßnahmen und Instrumente des Aktiven Schallschutzes bei Fluglärm – Measures and Instruments for Active Abatement of Aircraft Noise). The aim of the research project is to produce a catalogue of practical measures for active noise abatement that takes into account flight operations and local conditions at different airports. Issues concerning the impact and sources of aircraft noise, as well as calculating it and noise-optimised flight operations will be thoroughly investigated in the project. In addition, the researchers will develop concepts for monitoring the stress and impact of noise. DLR is combining all relevant scientific disciplines in the panel of specialists, such as physics, engineering, medicine, psychology and transport sciences. As a major aviation research facility in Germany, DLR is tackling the issue of aircraft noise in a multi-layered, intensive manner and in this regard is acting as a point of contact for industry, government, administration, those affected and environmental organisations.


Expertise for larger wind turbines

DLR will be working on multidisciplinary simulation methods in 2015 and developing intelligent rotor blade concepts using 'smart blades'. This will involve, among other things, adapting flap technologies from the aviation sector for use on wind turbine rotor blades exceeding 80 metres in length. Turbines will become even more efficient by increasing the number of hours of operation at full load. The current results can be seen in the DLR MERWind project. By analysing the entire wind energy facility, researchers can observe effects such as wind shear and design problems that play an important role as the size of the turbines is increased. The results will influence the design of new facilities. In late 2014, the Research Association for Wind Energy (Forschungsverbund Windenergie; FVWE), an association comprised of DLR, Fraunhofer IWES (Fraunhofer Institute of Wind Energy and Energy Systems Technology), and the Universities of Oldenburg, Hanover and Bremen, was awarded the North German Science Prize for successful collaboration.

Energy storage – thermal power storage units

Storing electrical energy in the order of magnitude required for the daily consumption of a major city (gigawatt-hours) is a prerequisite for integrating increasing quantities of renewable energy into the future power mix of Germany and the world at large. In addition to power-to-gas technology, the DLR Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics is currently working on storing excess power in the form of compressed air and heat, as part of Project ADELE-ING 2. Newly developed thermal storage units are providing a high level of efficiency. DLR scientists are investigating longer-term prospects for large power storage units, using power-heat-power technology, where the storage is based on just heat, not compressed air. This technology has the potential to store large quantities of electrical energy in a cost-effective manner and independently of a given location’s geological properties.

Making better use of solar energy – innovative particle receiver technology

The DLR Institute of Solar Research is working on the development of a receiver to capture concentrated solar radiation using heat-resistant particles. This is designed as a rotating system in solar tower power generators for the commercial production of high-temperature process heat and power. The particle receiver will be tested for the first time in 2015, at the DLR solar tower in Jülich. The ceramic particles used directly in the receiver act as both the heat transfer mechanism and the storage material in this process. Following successful preparatory work, this activity is now being sponsored by the Helmholtz Validation Fund and the Helmholtz Enterprise Fund, to bring the product to market.


From car to rail to car – urban mobility

Munich, Hamburg, Leipzig, Berlin, Cologne – the population of the major cities in Germany is growing. With the rediscovery of the city comes the challenge of creating a compact, low-resource habitat attractive to people. But how will people move around in cities in the future? What requirements will have to be met by the city transport system of tomorrow? Even today, we can see that the mobility habits of city-dwellers are changing. Existing mobility methods are being used more flexibly as a result of the progressive integration of public transport facilities. The increasing use of car sharing facilities is also changing how cars are used in cities. DLR researchers are analysing the motives, patterns and scope of the mobility change. In doing so, they are looking into how car usage is changing in the face of multi-modal use of means of transport. Their results are being used to develop innovative mobility concepts in urban spaces.

Increasing parcel delivery services in the city?

The trend towards e-commerce continues unabated – private households, commercial enterprises and shops are making more and more use of the services of parcel delivery companies. This is having a clear effect on the environment and traffic flow in cities. Against this background, DLR is working on scenarios for developing goods transportation in cities and is focusing on small-scale deliveries. This includes Project KEP City, which was launched in September 2014. Here, transport researchers are analysing the volume of goods being transported by parcel delivery services such as DHL, UPS or TNT, and are calculating the volume of traffic that this generates in the city. The aim is to estimate the effect of political measures such as a congestion charge or packet box services on goods transportation in cities and to offer recommendations for sustainable development..

Surfing the web on a tablet while driving a highly automated car

Surfing the web, chatting, emailing while on the road? Under certain conditions, cars are already capable of driving themselves. But depending on the situation, the driver needs to be able to retake control of the vehicle quickly. For this reason, DLR is working on the next generation car, to understand how the driver and vehicle need to share and transfer the job of driving. Using the example of surfing the web on a tablet, the researchers are investigating how and when a car driving autonomously should hand control over to the driver; for example, if it is approaching a narrow section of roadworks. To do so, the driver will have to stop what he is doing on the tablet and refocus on the driving situation, with a sufficient reserve of time to be able to take control of the driving in an alert, focused and, at the same time, relaxed manner. The first research results for the MobiFAS project are expected in the first half of 2015.


Real-time services for maritime security

For the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie; BMWi), civil maritime safety technology is an important area of activity to reinforce the German maritime economy and is part of the National Master plan for Maritime Technologies (NMMT). New technologies are expected to guarantee safe shipping. To combine and continue to develop the activities and expertise from commerce and research, the eMIR research platform (eMaritime Integrated Research Platform) is being established as part of the NMMT. Under this initiative, the partners involved are expected to be given the opportunity of demonstrating the latest developments and technologies in the area of maritime safety to users. DLR is participating in eMIR with the EMSec project (Echtzeitdienste für die Maritime Sicherheit – Real-time Services for Maritime Safety) and in the Rostock research port. Here, for example, the signals from the European Galileo satellite navigation systems are simulated using transmitter masts on the ground, so that future systems and applications for highly accurate and reliable navigation can start being developed there now. The eMIR activities and demonstration facilities are scheduled to be presented to the public during the course of the year.

Real-time aerial images for disaster management

New solutions for improved crisis management are required to be able to handle natural disasters such as floods, ice storms or tsunamis in the best possible way. One future technology is remote-controlled aircraft systems that provide continuous overviews of the situation in a disaster area over extended periods of time. As part of the EU DRIVER project (Driving Innovation in Crisis Management for European Resilience), DLR is developing a system for control and deployment planning for unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft (RPAS, Remotely Piloted Aircraft System). DLR is also providing a camera system for capturing situational overviews as well as various components for capturing data. A test for all the components involved using the example of a flood scenario is planned for September 2015. The DLR Do-228 D-CODE research aircraft will act as the RPAS demonstrator for this and will be controlled from the ground. DRIVER is being funded as part of the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme. Under the guidance of Atos Spain and with the participation of 37 partners from 15 nations, new technologies for disaster management will be brought together by 2018 and tested out in large-scale exercises. DLR contributors are the Institute of Flight Guidance, the Institute of Transportation Systems and the Earth Observation Center.


Andreas Schütz

Head of Corporate Communications, DLR Spokesperson
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-2474