National Experimental Test Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Europe’s unique testing infrastructure for cutting-edge UAS research

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been conducting cutting-edge research into Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for many years through its specialist institutes. This research drives the need for an array of test scenarios and requirements, giving the Test Center a pivotal role as an integrative support function within the UAS landscape. This brochure gives a brief overview of UAS, before going on to introduce the DLR institutes that are focusing on UAS research. It offers insights into various research projects and illustrates the wide range of potential applications for UAS.

The Test Center has been developed and built to reflect these possible applications and usage scenarios, with a view to providing optimal usability and as much support as possible for research, industry and official bodies. We have invested six million euros in the Test Center infrastructure in 2020 alone, four million of which is solely for scientific purposes. Although this brochure presents DLR’s work, the Test Center is also available to users and for projects from German and international industry and research institutions.

At this point, it is worth mentioning one particular aspect of the Test Center that is not explicitly addressed elsewhere in this brochure. In addition to creating a UAS testing infrastructure that is unique within Europe, we will also continue to run a ‘normal’ airport (with reduced capacity) in Cochstedt, in parallel to our UAS operations. This will allow us to acquire knowledge that can be applied to future projects. This is an additional challenge for DLR and will help create more testing opportunities for research institutions and industry, as well as assisting regulatory authorities and informing processes.

Ongoing discussions with representatives from industry, research institutions and government bodies, as well as with people from the local region, have shown that this site offers enormous potential for the development of UAS technologies. After all, safe yet comprehensive testing options are integral to the validation and certification of new technologies and are instrumental in encouraging wider acceptance of them. We are therefore looking forward to future developments, the start of new partnerships and the consolidation of existing ones, and ultimately the contribution that the Test Center will make towards future air transport.

Jean Daniel Sülberg
Director of the National Experimental Test Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems