DLR Design Challenge 2023

  DLR Challenge 2023 Team Copyright: © ILR Johannes Götz, Sami Zoghlami, Sebastian Dominik, Lars Neveling (Team Leader)

Securing communication channels in crisis scenarios

In an increasingly interconnected world, the importance of seamless communication via the Internet cannot be overstated. Whether for personal connections, business transactions, or critical emergencies, reliable communication channels have become a cornerstone of modern society. Recent advances have underscored the significance of maintaining a stable communication infrastructure, especially in times of crisis and disaster, where effective communication can mean the difference between life and death.

In this context, the DLR Challenge 2023 was centered on addressing the vulnerability of modern communication networks and thus, participants were tasked of designing a solution to provide continuous Internet coverage and situation monitoring during disaster scenarios.

The student team from RWTH Aachen University, consisting of Lars Neveling, Johannes Götz, Sami Zoghlami and Sebastian Dominik, proposed a concept that promises to revolutionize disaster communication through a novel system of aircraft, ensuring resilient connectivity and efficient disaster response. HEIKE, which stands for Hochfliegende Effiziente Intelligente Krisenkommunikations Einheit, is a mission-focused unmanned and autonomous canard aircraft with a battery-powered push-propeller, expandable to hybrid-electric. It is worth noticing, an initial sizing favored instability for efficiency, and aerodynamics were assessed in emergency scenarios, ensuring multi-day flight capabilities without need for landing. Infrastructure planning made the system transportable via containers, with cost-effective fleet viability. In addition, HEIKE may be applicable in scenarios beyond the provision of communication services thanks to its modular design. Current challenges remain in lightweight power design and autonomous coordination of multiple aircraft. Anticipated technology advancements by 2040, driven by renewable energy and AI, should address these. Heike’s design innovation lies in being independent from satellite solutions, offering a new disaster communication approach. If you like to delve deeper into the concept, have a look at the video below. Overall, HEIKE holds promise to reshape disaster response strategies.

The RWTH Aachen University student team secured the third position in this year's DLR Design Challenge hosted by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Remarkably, this is the fourth time in a row that the RWTH team places on the winner's podium under the guidance of Laura Babetto of the Institute of Aerospace Systems.

For this edition, the final event was conducted entirely in person, affording the students the opportunity to present their concept directly to the jury at the Center for Applied Aeronautics Research (ZAL) in Hamburg. The jury panel included numerous DLR experts and prominent figures, such as Markus Fischer, DLR's Director of Aeronautics, and Björn Nagel, Director of the DLR Institute of System Architectures in Aeronautics. Beyond the presentation, the students also engaged in a comprehensive tour of the research facility.

The final evaluation was centered on the quality of a comprehensive technical report, an impactful video presentation, and an effective pitch delivered to both the committee and competing teams. The RWTH team has the opportunity to present the innovative concept at the German Aerospace Congress 2023 (DLRK) in Stuttgart.

DLR Design Challenge 2023