Unmanned flights over the North Sea

Published on September 30, 2014

Unmanned flights over the North Sea

Original author: Press and Public Relations RWTH Aachen
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RWTH Aachen participates in the DHL unmanned aerial vehicle project between Just Island and the mainland. An unmanned multicopter is used to deliver drugs to the island for tourists and residents. A device weighing 5 kilograms completed a series of initial tests.



The project is led by Professor Dieter Moormann and his team from the Institute of Flight Systems Dynamics at RWTH Aachen (Institute of Flight Systems Dynamics). Before the first flight in September, it was necessary to convince the huge number of authorities and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Transport of the safety and technical feasibility of flights. It was necessary to overcome a distance of 12 km with, often, fog and variable wind. “Those responsible for the project, the authorities and, most importantly, the state of Lower Saxony themselves accompanied and supported the project despite initial skepticism,” says Professor Moormann.

The university’s extensive experience in the field of unmanned aerial systems has certainly contributed to this. For example, a special flying system has been developed for measuring radiation intensity in the event of an accident at a nuclear power plant around the station, also capable of providing information from the scene of the accident.

The project of flights to the island raises a number of new questions: from the choice of take-off and landing places to the air corridor for safety, the issues of the emergency system and radio communications for controlling a drone.

At the same time, work is underway on technical details: flight modes with the lowest energy consumption, multicopter reactions to turbulence and goal achievement, despite possible bad weather conditions.

Permanent contact with ground control


The drone's software was modified based on a simulation analysis, and a data channel was created via radio over an uninhabited area. Usually drones fly with visual control, which means that the pilot controls it at a distance of up to 400 meters. However, the project involved programming the drone for a twelve-kilometer unmanned independent flight with further landing. Since the copter is not equipped with a camera, it constantly transmits flight information. It is obtained by ground control (in this case, it is a special vehicle with equipment). The responsible pilot who controls the drone can intervene in an unpredictable situation and decide whether or not the copter should go back or it should fly to the emergency landing pad.

Tests of the drone conducted by DHL Paket showed that the unmanned drone for transporting packages is reliable and convenient for emergency care. Such situations arise in the case of the impossibility of a ferry service due to ice or low tide, as well as in cases where rescue helicopters cannot fly due to darkness or fog.

Some more related news:


News from the Wall Street Journal about these flights. In particular, it is specified that permission has been obtained for flights in a limited airspace between the island and the main Germany.

DHL press release in English

package page . Also there are some details on the drone. German.