March 20, 2019

Landing on the deck of a ship – DLR continues its research into maritime helicopter missions

  • DLR and the German Federal Police have been working together on the HEDELA research project since March 2019.
  • The research is focused on increasing the operational efficiency and safety of maritime helicopter missions.
  • Focus: Aviation, maritime security

The HEDELA (HElicopter DEck Landing Assistance) project is aimed at investigating, evaluating and improving maritime helicopter missions. It is a joint effort by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and the Fuhlendorf flight squadron of the German Federal Police. The project started in March 2019.

The research is focused on increasing the operational efficiency and safety of maritime helicopter missions. HEDELA is using the findings from the HELMA (Helicopter Flight Safety in Maritime Operations) research project to examine offshore flights by the police flight squadron and the use of Augmented Reality (AR) systems to increase operational availability and safety in poor visibility conditions. "As part of the HELMA project, we developed a head-mounted visual assistance system that displays flight-relevant information, obstacles and flight paths for pilots in offshore wind farms," explains Malte-Jörn Maibach of the DLR Institute of Flight Systems. "With HEDELA, we are continuing to develop this system; among other things, landings on the decks of ships are being added as an operational scenario."

Due to the expansion of offshore wind energy operations and increasing global shipping traffic, the number of maritime helicopter operations is on the increase, even in adverse weather conditions. This also places considerable demands on police helicopter operations. The HEDELA project focuses on ship-deck landings, flying with an external load, head-mounted vision systems and their use in maritime emergency preparedness.

In order to replicate ship-deck landings as realistically as possible, the researchers are also expanding the maritime simulation environment at the AVES (Air Vehicle Simulator) centre, which was previously developed for HELMA. This incorporates the visual and dynamic effects of weather and wave in the simulation, as well as models for the movement of the ship. The visual assistance system developed for pilots is now also being made ready for tests with the DLR research helicopter ACT/FHS (Active Control Technology/Flying Helicopter Simulator), a modified EC135. Pilots from the Fuhlendorf police flight squadron and DLR will finally be able to evaluate the newly developed assistance systems in tests using both the simulator and the research helicopter.

HEDELA project

The DLR Institute of Flight Systems, Institute of Flight Guidance and Institute for the Protection of Maritime Infrastructures, together with the DLR Flight Experiments facility, are all working on the HEDELA project. The Fuhlendorf police flight squadron is acting as an external partner. The project will run for three years and is financed by DLR Security Research.

Security research at DLR

In DLR's security-related work, research and development activities relating to defence or security are planned and monitored in conjunction with partners in government, scientific research, industry and international organisations. The cross-sectoral field of security research combines the core strengths of established DLR programmes in the fields of aeronautics, spaceflight, energy and transport. In total, over 20 DLR institutes and facilities are contributing towards the development, testing and evaluation of technologies, systems and concepts as part of their security-related work, as well as conducting analyses and evaluations of security-related applications.


Jasmin Begli

Corporate Communications Braunschweig, Cochstedt, Stade and Trauen
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Lilienthalplatz 7, 38108 Braunschweig
Tel: +49 531 295-2108

Malte-Jörn Maibach

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Flight Systems
Lilienthalplatz 7, 38108 Braunschweig