Open innovation

Technology demonstrator for unmanned flight

Together with universities and under the direction of Airbus Defence and Space, DLR has developed an innovative flying device for testing technologies for future unmanned aerial systems (UAS – Unmanned Aerial Systems) and successfully tested this during an inaugural flight in 2017. The unmanned, jet powered technology demonstrator with the project name SAGITTA flew fully autonomously on a pre-programmed course at the test site in Overberg, South Africa. The innovative flying-wing construction demonstrated excellent flight characteristics during the test.

Design criteria were a high degree of autonomy, variable mission design and low in-flight visibility. The airframe is made entirely of carbon fbre reinforced polymers (CFRP). The SAGITTA demonstrator is an ‘electronic flying device’ that is controlled by electromechanical actuators instead of hydraulic components. The aerial vehicle’s unconventional confguration requires support from a flight control system in order to achieve good flight characteristics. The necessary control surface actuators must meet extraordinary requirements, as they must withstand high trim loads with minimum weight. Other special requirements for the flying device were a retractable landing gear and a fuel system that reliably supplies the flying device without any bubbles in all flight conditions, for example, even when it is flying upside down. The restricted space of the compact diamond wing shape in combination with high descent speeds posed major technical challenges for the design of the landing gear. To address this, a landing gear test rig was specially developed and tailored to the requirements of the flight demonstrator.

PhD students from various research establishments worked on relevant issues within the SAGITTA project. The TU Munich, Universität der Bundeswehr München, Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt, Chemnitz University of Technology, Airbus Group Innovations and DLR are all involved in the project.

German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Simeon Arditsoglou · E-Mail ·