At the beginning of the year 1917 new allied fighter aircraft, especially the French Nieuport 11 and the British Airco D.H.2, enjoyed air superiority over the Western Front of Germany against the inferior Fokker-Eindecker. So that development of a new fighter aircraft had to start urgently.
In April 1916 the chief-engineer of Albatros, Robert Thelen, developed the Single seat fighter D.I (project name L15), which should combine more powerful engines with a better armament. His design had a wooden made fuselage, which featured not only good static stability, but also a slender design with good aerodynamics. The D.I was equipped with two machine guns, giving it two times the firepower, when comparing it to previous fighters. Because of its powerful engine it was easy to control. It was also much faster than competitive fighters of the Triple Entente, but less manoeuvrable than the Fokker-Eindecker. Another disadvantage was the bad pilot visibility, because of the upper wing. But those disadvantages were outbalanced through the good rate of climb, speed and firepower.
In September 1916, only one month after testing of the prototype, the first aircraft entered service and were used in combat. On 17th September 1916 Oswald Boelcke´s squadron composed of five aircraft, attacked on a test flight a formation of seven Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2, and downed five of them without own losses.