Fraunhofer ALBACOPTER Lighthouse Project

About the Project

The increasing volume of both passenger and freight transport brings the capacity of existing infrastructure closer and closer to its limits – especially in urban centers. Connected and autonomous driving is regarded as a promising approach to optimizing traffic flow, but it raises safety-relevant questions due to its complexity and the multitude of different traffic participants. Opening up the transport area's third dimension can grant relief to cities and offer new chances for remote locations. 

Vertical Mobility

The German Federal Government's »Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Innovative Aviation Concepts« action plan is currently paving the way not only for the development of drones and air taxis, but also for the targeted implementation of »automated and connected aviation«. This way, Germany aims to establish itself as the leading market for unmanned aircraft systems.

Due to the diversity of missions, Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is faced with a large number of demands in terms of aircraft engineering and systems technology.  For example, while building multicopter solutions that are safe and low-noise is possible, they require extremely high drive power during hovering. VTOL multicopters, which fulfill the criteria for environmental sustainability, flight safety, as well as taking off and landing agility, but their range and payload capacity are limited due to their batteries' low energy storage densities.

Winged aircraft have considerably smaller energy footprints. However, they are restricted in urban space because of their take-off and landing requirements. In addition, the range of UAM aircraft systems' mission profiles is very broad in terms of transport capacity, required range, and speed. With a view to efficiency and sustainability, modular and scalable system solutions similar to platform strategies employed in the automotive sector are of special interest in this context.

The ALBACOPTER as a Scalable Drone Concept

ALBACOPTER consortium answers the resulting complexity by pooling competencies in the areas of mechanical/mechatronic structural and systems technology, design and manufacturing processes, sensor technology, control technology, data processing and artificial intelligence, which are distributed over several institutes. The common aim in creating the ALBACOPTER concept is to develop innovative technological approaches that combine the advantages of agile multicopters with the efficiency of gliding aircraft, and to prove their scalability. The ALBACOPTER is intended to become an experimental platform for validating and demonstrating innovations. 

The work carried out within the Fraunhofer Lighthouse Project focuses on topics such as

  • increasing the efficiency of electric aviation,
  • introducing smart cargo box logistics,
  • developing series-ready manufacturing technologies for drones and structural components made from recycleable, fiber-reinforced thermoplastic materials
  • developing AI-based methods for autonomous flight monitoring and attitude control in critical flight phases. 

After the successful validation of the system's concept using economically sensible scaling scenarios, an innovation platform  will be created that allows experimental testing of the aircraft concept. The ALBACOPTER will be the first experimental aircraft available to Fraunhofer that can be used to test a broad range of high-tech UAM developments and present them to the general public.

Focus Topics

Experimental aircraft and digital twin

  • Concepts for model variants
  • Modeling and simulation

Materials and aerodynamic structures

  • Framework structure
  • Wings
  • Smart cargo box

Energy storage and drive technology

  • Battery system
  • Drive technology
  • E-hovering-system

Autonomous aviation

  • Flight controller
  • Attitude control
  • AI-based flight planning and maneuvers