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DLR opens new Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualization in Dresden; digitalization of aviation

The German Aerospace Centre (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has opened the new DLR Institute of Software Methods in Dresden. In Dresden, DLR will focus on product virtualization in the aircraft manufacturing sector. Before an aircraft can take to the skies, much expensive development work and lengthy tests are required. These processes can be made faster, cheaper and safer when first conducted on a virtual aircraft that behaves just like its real counterpart. In future, therefore, DLR will increasingly concentrate on the challenges posed by the entire process chain, from initial digital design to simulated decommissioning.

The entire aircraft life cycle—from development and production, through operation and ultimately decommissioning—is undergoing drastic transformations, as all areas are gradually being digitalized. The new DLR institute in Dresden will therefore gather the relevant software research skills and pave the way for the first complete virtual flight in the long term. It will therefore act as a centre for software methods and product virtualization in close cooperation with other DLR institutes and industrial and research partners.

—Rolf Henke, Executive Board Member of DLR

The use of high-performance computers is key to realizing the virtual aircraft. The experts at the new institute will therefore lay the technical software foundations, so that current and future generations of high-performance computers can be efficiently used for complex simulations. They will also develop multi-disciplinary software platforms that will comprehensively analyse and optimize the virtual aircraft.


DLR researchers at the newly founded institute will pursue new approaches and methods for the analysis and management of large amounts of data as well as simulation-based certification that significantly reduce the development and approval costs of new products. These should also be made available to other transport and business sectors.

The institute has three departments, which initially plan to employ around 70 people: the High-Performance Computing Department will research and develop new algorithms, and programming, data and memory models, especially with regard to future high-performance computer architectures. These models will then be made available to the respective DLR specialized institutes for specific research. The Simulation Environments Department is designed to reliably archive the extremely heterogeneous and very large data sets generated during high-performance computing and make these available for the multi-disciplinary analysis and optimisation of the virtual product. In addition, the Software Methods Department will research how the information required to test, qualify and ultimately even certify the virtual product in terms of all its properties can be efficiently extracted from the large amounts of data produced. Data and software must also be reliably protected against erroneous modification or random manipulation.

The new Dresden institute will receive annual funding of €8.3 million (US $9.8 million) from the Federal Government and the Free State of Saxony, with the German government contributing 90% of the total. During the construction phase from 2017 until 2020, the Free State will also provide annual funding of up to €4.2 million for the institute’s infrastructure and accommodation.


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