April 12, 2019 | Connecting remote regions of Earth with crewed and uncrewed aerial systems

DLR/NASA Design Challenge dedicated to concepts for small aircraft and new technologies for regional air transport

  • The competition kick-off was held at the DLR site in Braunschweig.
  • The students' aircraft designs should be characterised by a high level of cost effectiveness and environmental compatibility.
  • In autumn 2019, the winning team will travel to NASA in the USA.
  • Focus: Aeronautics

Radically reduce the energy consumption of an aircraft. Last year, a four-member team of students from Munich demonstrated how this could be achieved with the 'eRay' Aircraft Concept and, in doing so, revealed the creative potential of the younger generation in the DLR/NASA Design Challenge. In 2019, the international competition will be held for the third time and will once again present students with a challenge that will give them the opportunity to steer aeronautics technology in new directions. This time, the focus will be on aircraft designs and concepts for connecting remote regions with small aircraft. These will be characterised by a high level of cost effectiveness and, in addition to passenger flights with a pilot, will make uncrewed night-time cargo flights possible. The competition is jointly organised by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) and NASA. The challenge is open to students in Germany and the USA. The kick-off for the participants from five German universities was held on 12 April 2019 at the DLR site in Braunschweig. The teams then have until the end of June to prepare their competition proposals. In the autumn, the German winners will travel to NASA, where they will present their work alongside the US-American winners.

There are remote regions around the world that are effectively only reachable by air. The focus here is on small aircraft with the lowest possible fixed and operating costs, and flexibility of use for both passenger and freight transport. This will enable the most economical and at the same time environment-friendly operations possible, even with low passenger volumes. The competition calls for revolutionary new technological ideas – from aircraft designs to uncrewed operating scenarios.

"Aviation connects the world – from isolated airfields, to airports and major hubs. Against the backdrop of global change, we at DLR are conducting research into the air transport of the future with numerous international partners from around the world," says Rolf Henke, Member of the DLR Executive Board responsible for aeronautics research, at the event. "It is hard to imagine life without the connection of remote regions by air, and so, together with our partners from NASA, I am looking forward to fresh inspiration from young people with designs and operational concepts that will stimulate regional air transport."

The German and US-American aerospace organisations have been working closely together for a long time. In aeronautics research, both partners are particularly involved in joint research projects in areas, such as air traffic management, low-noise aircraft and low fuel consumption flight. One example is the campaign to investigate the emissions of alternative aviation fuels in joint test flights, which took place in Germany in 2018.

The NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, Jaiwon Shin, expressed his support for the design challenge in a recent video greeting to the DLR participants. "We are very excited to have all of you participating in this year's design challenge. The aviation community really needs young folks like you to join the force. And this challenge might be your first step. Apply your best minds and go for the win. We look forward to meeting the DLR winners at the joint symposium to be held at NASA Langley Research Center later this year."

In Germany, approximately 40 students have registered for the NASA/DLR Design Challenge, distributed among five teams from five universities: RWTH Aachen, TU Berlin, TU Dresden, TU Hamburg and the University of Stuttgart. In the USA, there will be a double-digit number of participating teams from various universities. One winning team will be selected from each country. The German winners will travel to visit NASA in the USA in the autumn of 2019. There, together with the American winners, they will present their work in a symposium attended by internationally renowned aviation researchers. Participants now have until 1 July 2019 to develop their design proposals and submit them to DLR. The winners will be announced in August.


Falk Dambowsky

Head of Media Relations, Editor
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Corporate Communications
Linder Höhe, 51147 Cologne
Tel: +49 2203 601-3959

Olaf Brodersen

German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Institute of Aerodynamics and Flow Technology
Transport Aircraft
Lilienthalplatz 7, 38108 Braunschweig

J. D. Harrington

Hea­d­quar­ters Pu­blic Af­fairs Of­fi­cer
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Ae­ro­nau­tics Re­se­arch Missi­on Di­rec­to­ra­te