More space for more aerospace research: Inauguration of ZAL expansion

The ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research now offers researchers 30 percent more space for innovation. Less than two years after the foundation was laid, the First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Dr. Peter Tschentscher, inaugurated the completed ZAL extension on Wednesday and ceremoniously handed over the new research space to the anchor tenant, the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

Two DLR institutes will occupy about two-thirds of the new space. The institutes of ‘Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul’ and ‘System Architectures in Aeronautics’ will contribute their expertise in maintenance and digitalization for climate compatible aviation to the research network. The lease agreement with DLR runs for 25 years. The remaining research space in the 8,000-square-meter extension is particularly intended for SMEs and technology partners who want to use the ZAL infrastructure for shorter periods of time and project-related research work.

Dr. Peter Tschentscher, First Mayor of Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg: “Hamburg is the world’s third largest location for the civil aviation industry and a leading center for research and development. At the Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, global market leaders, start-ups, research institutes and universities work together on the aviation of the future. The expansion of ZAL creates additional capacity for innovations ‘made in Hamburg’ and strengthens the institutes of the German Aerospace Center located here. I would like to thank everyone involved and congratulate to the inauguration of the new building.”

Roland Gerhards, CEO of ZAL GmbH: “The new extension offers ZAL partners both more space and more options in equal measure! Part of the new space is reserved for SMEs, start-ups and technology partners for project-related research work. The advantages are obvious: ZAL integration with simultaneous flexibility when it comes to technical equipment, team size, and the project period. If required, the offer can be supplemented by support in the area of prototype construction or agile innovation support.”

Prof. Dr. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chair of the Executive Board, DLR: “As one of the largest aerospace research and development facilities in Europe, we are delighted to be expanding our premises in Hamburg. In these new laboratories, we will conduct intensive research into climate-compatible aviation and all of the interconnected fields within it, with a focus on digital processes, new aircraft configuration and new maintenance concepts. Direct networking with the Hamburg aviation and air traffic industries as well as start-ups in the ZAL TechCenter offers the ideal conditions for exchanging knowledge with public authorities and transferring technology to industry. We are grateful for the continued support received from the City of Hamburg, especially from the economic authorities and the Hamburg Aviation industry cluster.”

The future of civil aviation is being shaped at the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research, located in Hamburg’s Finkenwerder district. More than 30 partners from industry and science work together under one roof in the 34,000-square-meter ZAL TechCenter – including Airbus, Lufthansa Technik, Diehl Aviation, Dassault Systèmes, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Fraunhofer, and Hamburg’s universities. With around 850 researchers, they work on topics such as robotics and automation, digitalization, cabin acoustics, and smart cabin design. In addition, the in-house Fuel Cell Lab offers researchers the optimal conditions for advancing sustainability goals in aviation.

Following its opening in 2016, the ZAL TechCenter space was quickly fully booked. Airbus also extended its lease to 20 years ahead of schedule. DLR is leasing its space for 25 years. For this reason, ZAL is being expanded in two stages: with the recently inaugurated extension and with a new building on the opposite side of the street, where sustainable mobility topics will be addressed, also across different sectors.

External technology partners, SMEs, and start-ups, in particular, can look forward to the extensions, because the additional space at ZAL can also be rented on a project basis in the future – in other words, at short notice and for shorter periods of time. This Flex Space offer is primarily aimed at users who could not previously rent hall space due to full occupancy.

The extension will mean that up to 300 DLR employees will be working under one roof at ZAL in the near future. With the goal of climate-friendly aviation, the DLR institutes of “Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul” and “System Architectures in Aeronautics” are researching sustainable aircraft and operating concepts. To this end, they are modeling and evaluating the entire aviation system – from energy generation to climate impact along the complete life cycle. This involves not only new aircraft, but also their production, operation, and maintenance, as well as decommissioning. The extension provides DLR with even more space for the work areas and laboratories of these growing institutes.

Among other things, DLR is developing the ALICIA assessment platform, short for “Aviation Life Cycle and Impact Assessment”, at the site. DLR is using this platform to support industry and policymakers in making fact-based decisions regarding the sustainable air transportation system of the future.

Two new laboratories are planned for the laboratory areas: In the future, a business jet will form the basis for the MRO control laboratory. New maintenance technologies and processes will be able to be tested here. Among other things, DLR is researching digital assistance systems for maintenance and inspection robots. DLR scientists will also be able to carry out experiments on the fuselage of a real long-haul aircraft in the future. The fuselage will form the basis for validating the integration of new cabin systems, fuel cells, or refueling systems, for example, into new climate-compatible aircraft concepts.