The route to a virtual aircraft involves millions and millions of computer calculations
Aeronautics researchers have been addressing the challenges of digitalisation for many years. Their vision is for the entire lifecycle of an aircraft – from the initial design all the way through development, certification, maintenance and finally decommissioning – to be depicted digitally by computer systems. Such a ‘virtual product’ would greatly reduce costs and levels of risk.
However, an aircraft and its aerodynamic properties are complex. To get closer to reality by digital means, researchers divide the space around an aircraft into a network of many cells. Physical quantities such as pressure, density and flow velocity can be calculated in each cell. The smaller the cell size, the more accurate the simulation. This produces an enormous system of mathematical equations for the flow quantities that need to be calculated. High-performance computers make it possible to carry out millions and millions of compute operations per second and to fill such a network of cells with consistent values.
One such supercomputer was installed at DLR in 2007. It was intended to serve as a basis and tool for accelerating the introduction of innovative technologies for more efficient, cleaner and safer flying and to better manage the technological risks. In 2019, the cluster will be replaced by a new high-performance computer that, with 2280 compute nodes and 145,920 compute cores, will be able to handle 1.79 petaFLOPS per second, that is 1.798 × 1015 arithmetic operations per second.
Solving complex numerical problems and simulating the behaviour of aircraft using a computer are key steps when aeronautics research seeks to reduce fuel consumption, pollutant emissions and noise, and make the aircraft of the future safer and more environment friendly, as well as increasing their cost efficiency.
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
Yvonne Buchwald · E-Mail: email@example.com · dlr.de/en
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