The Ef­fi­cient Air Trans­port

Efficient air traffic management


Consistently safe and reliable air transport, managed in an environment-friendly way, to increase capacity and efficiency.

Requirement: Manage a greater number of flights in a more environment-friendly manner and with improved punctuality

The EU's vision for air transport, Flightpath 2050, sets out clear requirements. In future, 90 percent of all passenger journeys within Europe should take no more than four hours door to door. All flights should arrive on time, regardless of the weather, without deviating from their flight plan by more than one minute. By the middle of the 21st century, it is expected that the European air transport system will have to handle approximately 25 million flights per year while complying with these requirements – with aircraft of many different designs. As connecting points between ground and air transport, airports will have to orient themselves even more strongly towards the needs of customers and local residents. People living near airports, in particular, will expect air transport to be managed in an environment-friendly manner, with less noise and pollutant emissions. Unlike today, future commercial flying as a whole will require significantly more flexible and efficient management. DLR intends to prepare the air transport system to meet all of these challenges.

Objective: Fully networked – down to the component level

DLR is investigating the entire air transport chain – from individual technologies through to the architecture of a partially or fully automated air transport system. Its work ranges from operational concepts for unmanned aerial systems to the optimisation of air traffic management across the entire network. The research also considers airports as individual nodes within the network, airline operations, and the effectiveness of the entire air transport system in terms of performance, efficiency and environmental impact. This makes it possible to assess the entire chain, bringing, among other things, all of the concepts, technologies, operational aspects and environmental criteria together in a comprehensive virtual model of the entire air transport system. This also extends to the interfaces with other modes of transport, thus fully integrating it into the assessment capability for future mobility as a whole.

High security ensures high levels of acceptance

Societal acceptance of new technologies and processes is hugely important. In its research work, DLR is looking at conventional, urban, low-level and near-space airspace. In the long run it is aiming to merge traditional ATM systems with UTM-U-space activities. Future systems will be highly networked, while subcomponents will either be completely autonomous or have a high degree of automation. This places considerable demands on technology development itself and requires the utmost cybersecurity both in terms of the overall architecture and individual areas of technology such as communications, navigation, monitoring and flight guidance.

Systematically optimising teamwork and minimising the environmental impact

People will continue to play an important role within the system, whether as decision-makers such as operators, or as users or passengers. Therefore, human factors are key. This has a bearing on areas such as interpersonal teamwork and collaboration with highly automated or autonomous systems or subsystems. The researchers will also look into the effect of air transport on the population at large in detail, in particular the annoyance caused by aircraft noise. The environmental and climate impact of air traffic and the effects of new aircraft technologies and alternative fuels will be subject to extensive analysis and will feed into the assessment and optimisation of the air transport system.

Obtaining more accurate weather data

Having the most accurate and up-to-date information about weather and possible turbulence is vital to ensure safe and reliable flight operations. An integrated global observation and warning system will be set up for this purpose, and local capacity for detailed local weather forecasting will also be created and extended, based on local observations.

Making better use of airports without a detrimental impact on local residents

Airports have lots of potential and could use the available resources much more effectively than they do at present. This begins with optimising everyday procedures such as arrivals and departures, taxiways, baggage transport and loading. New arrival and departure processes can be linked with innovative navigation procedures in order to move around as quickly as possible, but with minimum fuel consumption and environmental impact. Such navigation procedures also make the operation of complex landing and taxiing arrangements much safer and more efficient. New landing procedures make it possible to offset the exploitation of airports and the associated noise and pollution in a more effective and environment friendly way. This makes it possible to fly around densely populated areas flexibly, so that only a few people living close to airports are affected by the noise.