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Together with nine partners, including TU Dortmund University, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Association (DGzRS) has successfully tested an unmanned aviation system over the Baltic Sea that can be employed in emergencies at sea. Launched three years ago, the research project LARUS – which is Latin for seagull – has culminated in an automatic fixed-wing aircraft that has already flown safely over some 660 sea miles (roughly 1,220 kilometers). In the future, a more developed version could improve communications and data exchange when coordinating search and rescue measures under severe operating conditions – and thus save lives. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research funded the program under the Research for Civil Security program.
“At sea, the actual rescue will still be carried out by people in rescue cruisers and helicopters. But, if they fly automatically, unmanned aviation systems can deliver additional communication capacity and immediate situation photos,” says DFzRS CEO Captain Udo Helge Fox, underlining the importance of the research.
For the first time, LARUS integrated an unmanned aviation system in a search and rescue scenario for people in distress at sea in German waters off the coast of Vorpommern, between Rügen and Usedom, that is, in the DFzRS’s area of competence. “The aim was to trace a dummy in the Baltic Sea. The LARUS demonstrator quickly found the object, transmitted the data to the rescue cruiser Berthold Beitz and the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Bremen, and guided the rescuers safely to the ‘shipwreck victims,’” reports DGzRS scientist and head of the project, Thomas Lübcke.
Real-time transmission of situation photos to users
The LARUS system has its own modified transponder for the standard maritime Automatic Identification System (AIS). This enables it to localize location transmitters that are integrated in modern life vests. Usually, the AIS signals can only be received within a small radius of the person in the water. The LARUS system can track them from the air and pass on the data to the rescue units that have not yet reached the scene.
As part of the LARUS project, an unmanned fixed-wing aircraft with a wingspan of 3.6 meters was developed to meet the demands of the sea rescue service. “Using the LARUS demonstrator we tested various components for optical and sensory tracking as well as novel concepts for reliable wireless networking. All the components transmit live information to the ground from where the safety of flight operations can be constantly monitored,” says the coordinator of the research alliance, Professor Christian Wietfeld, head of the Communication Networks Institute at TU Dortmund. “The point is to provide very efficient technology to support rescuers working under particularly difficult conditions.”
With LARUS, scientists often found themselves breaking new ground. For the first time in German civil airspace over the sea, an unmanned aviation system with roughly 25 kilos take-off weight was moved. It reliably transmitted real-time situation photos to various users at the same time.
Moreover, the Bundesnetzagentur allocated LARUS the first German frequency for an automatic fixed-wing aircraft in the Search and Rescue Service (SAR). In terms of flight the system fulfilled all the project management’s expectations.
So far, these test flights, which are of importance both for aviation and for rescuers, are unique. LARUS will be continued until the end of the year in order to secure the results and create a basis for determining the need for further development that will make the system operational on a sustainable basis.
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Location & approach
The campus of TU Dortmund University is located close to interstate junction Dortmund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dortmund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is "Dortmund-Eichlinghofen" (closer to Campus Süd), and from B 1 / A 40 "Dortmund-Dorstfeld" (closer to Campus Nord). Signs for the university are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dortmund.
To get from Campus Nord to Campus Süd by car, there is the connection via Vogelpothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at Campus Nord and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.
TU Dortmund University has its own train station ("Dortmund Universität"). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dortmund main station ("Dortmund Hauptbahnhof") and Düsseldorf main station via the "Düsseldorf Airport Train Station" (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 20 or 30 minutes). The university is easily reached from Bochum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duisburg.
You can also take the bus or subway train from Dortmund city to the university: From Dortmund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station "Stadtgarten", usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At "Stadtgarten" you switch trains and get on line U42 towards "Hombruch". Look out for the Station "An der Palmweide". From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dortmund University leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dortmund main station to the stop "Dortmund Kampstraße". From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop "Dortmund Wittener Straße". Switch to bus line 447 and get off at "Dortmund Universität S".
Dortmund Airport offers flights to several destinations in Central Europe. There are regular connections to Katowice, Kraków, London and Munich. For the approximately 20km-trip from Dortmund Airport to TU Dortmund University, you can use a shuttle bus to the railway Station "Bahnhof Holzwickede", from which trains depart to Dortmund main station (please visit Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr for more information). Normally, the fastest way is to catch a taxi at Dortmund Airport.
The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dortmund University. There are two stations on Campus Nord. One ("Dortmund Universität S") is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the university directly with the city of Dortmund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the "Technologiepark" and (via Campus Süd) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at Campus Nord and offers a direct connection to Campus Süd every five minutes.