Tag Archives: NLR

Large scale drone testing at Twente Airport

During the first week of July the NLR (Netherlands Aerospace Centre) used Twente Airport to perform the first tests with the XCalibur+ Jet Trainer, a certified drone, according to the ASRPAS1 standards. The jet trainer is being used to gain experience on flying jet-powered drones.

The XCalibur+ is prepared for the first flight

The XCalibur+ jet trainer is based on a model aircraft, where several modifications have been applied to bring the aircraft onto ASRPAS1 specifications. The drone can fly on various speeds and is remotely piloted. It was the first time that the NLR flew this drone.  Four NLR employees have been specially trained in Germany in order to fly jet powered, fixed wing, drones. Furthermore, the trials are supervised by a pilot with expertise on real jets and drone jets.

The experience gained with the jet trainer is essential for future NLR big drone activities. For some time, NLR has been working on the development of a large remote controlled jet plane measuring 4 meters in length and 4 meters span and weight over 100 kg. It does this within the framework of the EU Cleansky 2 SCALAIR (SCALed AIRcraft) project, in which a flying scale model of an existing airplane is being developed, built and tested. The purpose of this scale model is to show connection between the scale behavior of the scale model and the full-scale aircraft.

NLR chooses Twente Airport because this location is unique. ‘The NLR has the Netherlands RPAS Test Center (NRTC) in Marknesse, however, for the first flights with the jet trainer and other big drones, Twente Airport is chosen because of the availability of a long hardened runway, an obstacle free environment and relatively little air traffic. In addition, Technology Base, located at Twente Airport, offers the environment where innovative entrepreneurship and a lot of space to experiment together, “said Jan Willekens of NLR. Within the Dutch Drone Platform, NLR works closely with Space53 and the other proposed Drone test locations in the Netherlands to promote Drone development and use.

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The runway is wet

On 21 and 22 March 2017 Twente Airport hosted an Airbus A.400M to perform wet runway tests together with the Netherlands Aerospace Center (NLR). Niek van der Zande Photography was there to witness these tests.

The A.400M waits at the platform for the next tests to begin.

The fact that Airbus would send an A.400M to Twente only became known to the outside world on Monday 20 March, when a NOTAM (NOtice To AirMen) was issued and the Grizzly was airborne out of the facty airport in Sevilla, Spain. Twente Airport already knew of these plans for a long time, but was not allowed to mention anything before.

The Grizzly’s crew is ready for another mission.

Upon arrival in Twente, the crew first circled the airfield for a considerable time, as the crew was not yet sure whether the meteorological conditions were good enough for them to land. There are no ILS facilities in Twente, which means that conditions need to be good enough for a visual approach.  Luckily, Twente Airport has its own meteo station on site, so the most accurate information could be passed on to the crew, after which they considered it safe to land.

Various calibration marks on the A.400M

The reason behind this unique visit is that Twente Airport has the facilities to perform wet runway tests, something that cannot be performed just anywhere. Twente has the unique situation that it has a long runway with the right surface. Next to that, the runway is prepared to create a water basin through which the aircraft can perform high speed taxi runs. In 2016 the first tests were already performed with a NLR Citation ( see: NLR tests at Twente Airport ), these tests were now performed on a larger scale. For this a set of grooves of 1cm wide and 3cm deep were cut into the runway. In these grooves large rubber slats were inserted so that a basin was created. This basin could be filled up with up to 3 centimeters of water, which resembles a heavy downpour of rain during a storm.

The Grizzly taxies out for another series of tests.

The A.400M then taxied through the water basin in order to measure the brake performance under various circumstances. IN order to get a clear picture, a total of 16 runs were executed, all at different speeds and with different braking profiles. The maximum speed at which the runs were performed was 110 knots, which guaranteed a big splash of water around the aircraft.

Splash! That’s the result of 8mm water on the runway.

The tests themselves were initiated by the European Commission, in order get further information on aircraft performance under extreme conditions. These results will be used to further expand regulations and certifications and thus enhance the safety in aviation.

After this succesful series of tests, the A.400M left for Sevilla on Thursday 23 March. Twente Airport hopes to see more of these tests in the future, they are now talking to the Chinese manufacturer COMAC in order to see if tests with the COMAC C919 can be held at Twente Airport. This will get easier when ownership transfers from de Dutch Ministry of Defence to the Province of Overijssel on the 30th of March 2017. From then on the restrictions on the usage of the airfield will be lifted and visiting aircraft can be accepted at a 24 hours advance notice (24Hr PPR). This 24Hr PPR was introduced since the airport does not have a fixed staffing of Air Traffic Control, Fire Brigade etc. These will be hired on a need-be basis.

In order to facilitate operations outside of daylight hours, a GPS appraoch system will be introduced in the fall of 2017. This means that pilots can fly to and from the airport under Instrument Flying Rules (IFR).

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NLR tests at Twente Airport

The Netherlands Aerospace Centre (NLR) has chosen Twente Airport as the location of several tests with it’s airplane, a Cessna Citation businessjet.

The NLR flight crew, ready for another mission.
The NLR flight crew, ready for another mission.

On the 13th of September brake tests were held, whereby the runway was artificially soaked. The tests will continue on 15 and 16 September, but now brake tests will be performed in a water basin, which will be purposely built on a section of the runway. The NLR was looking for a location where some special tests could be executed; plenty of space and a runway with a special coating were required.

The top layer, Antiskid from the Possehl company, increases security when landing on a wet runway. These tests are held to measure exactly what the friction of the runway is in rainy conditions. The runway will be soaked with the use of six large tanker trailers that will spray a large amount of water on the runway. The testplane will then land shortly after.

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On 15 and 16 September another set of braking tests were performed but now in a so-called waterbasin, that will be constructed on a part of the runway.

Preparation of the water basin on the runway
Preparation of the water basin on the runway

The amount of water in this basin represents the amount of water that can accumulate on the runway during a heavy downpour. The purpose of these tests is to see how the aircraft brakes perform in these extreme conditions. The knowledge that is gained will be used to adapt rules and regulations, which will then in turn increase flight safety. The tests on 15 and 16 September were performed in the light of a European study to increase flight safety.

PH-LAB landing on the soaked runway
PH-LAB landing on the soaked runway

 

 

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