Cyber-Physical Aviation

Fututre of Aviation

A further growth in passenger numbers and in air freight is expected. The spatial expandability of the system infrastructure is limited and the use of information technology is essential in order to overcome this bottleneck.

Immer­sion of Cyber­space and Real World

Cyber-physical aviation characterizes the immersion of information technology and physical processes in the air transport systems and can, for example, assist the many subprocesses on the apron being more efficient due to anytime available and more current information. Source: Sydney Airport Multimedia Gallery; edited by the Institute of Aircraft Cabin Systems

Cyber-Physical Aviation

The term cyber-physical aviation characterizes the immersion of digital information technology and physical processes in the air transportation system. Developers, manufacturers, operators and users communicate constantly and interact with the technical systems throughout the entire lifecycle. While the transformation to this next stage is already well in progress in some areas (e.g. passenger processes at the airport), there is still room for improvements in other sectors. In the future, systems, equipment and components will have their own intelligence and communication abilities, providing wireless and tangible interfaces to objects and humans in order to interact in both continuous and discrete time domains. Anytime availabe information and seamless communication could help to overcome bottlenecks in the overall system via decicision making, voting or reorganization of system elements or processes based on local and current information.

No Lack of Technology but still a lot of Challenges

Technologies of cyber-physical systems such as data networks, wireless data transfer, image and pattern recognition, electronic identities for automation, Near-Field Communication (NFC) for cashless payments and Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) as Auto-ID processes for objects, are already widely used and improvements take place continously. Therefore availablility and use technology is not an issue on the path towards a cyber-physical air transport system. Instead there is a lack of tools and methods for the design of a harmonized specification of the whole and complex system of systems in which all the system elements must work together. The networking is characteristic for cyber-physical systems. The system elements are cooperative. They usually are automated, often autonomous and they react adaptive to local system changes. A major challenge is the segmentation and global distribution of the overall system. Many economic entities and scientific disciplines must work together in order to exchange and find consensuses on the system architecture. This requires new methods and tools for the design, specification, integration and documentation. Furthermore, standardized and open solutions are more useful than proprietary technologies. Until now the topic of physical security has been well mastered. However attacks from cyberspace will exhibit new threats. Moreover these additional attack paths are not easily recognizable or understandble by the manufacturers, operators and users. Nevertheless, the pressure on aviation industry to deal with the transformation to a cyber-physical air transport system is high. Cyber-physical systems are advanced in many areas and virtually all industries hope to gain great benefit from digitally supported processes.

The Hamburg Universities are going to cooperate in terms of cyber-physical aviation at ZAL TechCenter (left). Intelligent components (middle left) have an identity and identify themselves wirelessly. Smart cards (middle) provide the crew a more simple, secure and personalized access to cabin systems. Payment processes via smart phones for electronic services and novel comfort functions are enabled via an NFC-interface integrated into the passenger seat (middle right). Equipment with RFID functionality (right) can be detected wirelessly and can easily be checked during pre-flight operations.

Research for Cyber-Physical Aviation in Hamburg

The TechCenter for applied aeronautical research (ZAL TechCenter) was opened beginning of the year 2016. In the ZAL the Hamburg Universities are cooperating with companies from the aviation industry in terms of research. A focus lies on cyber-physical aviation with an emphasis on:

  • Aviation technology
  • Logistics and mobility
  • Cyber Security
  • ID- and Auto-ID-systems
  • System of Systems Engineering
  • System Security Engineering
  • Design and Integration of CPS
  • Technologies of CPS


Please contact us

Cyber-Physical Aviation
Hamburg Universities at ZAL TechCenter

Contact: Prof. Dr. Ralf God
Mail: ralf.god(at)
Fon.: +49 (40) 42878 - 8293
Fax: +49 (40) 42878 - 8232
Mobile: +49 (177) 21 96 468