3D Robotics

UAV-to-UAV midair refuelling simulation

From the video description:  "Northrop Grumman video showing its Proteus manned test aircraft (left) and a NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft (right) conducting the first simulated autonomous aerial refueling at high altitude. Proteus (acting the the tanker) and the Global Hawk (as the receiver - its the reverse of the normal way) flew as close as 40ft apart at an altitude of 45,000ft in a risk-reduction flight for the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's KQ-X program. Wake turbulence between the aircraft as well as engine performance and flight control responsiveness in the stratosphere were evaluated."


{via Robots.net}

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  • Moderator
    Yes if they don't have to land at all it makes them much less prone to risk
  • Northrop Grumman is using AARD system of Sierra Nevada Corporation that 5 years ago demonstrated autonomous refueling when one of NASA's F/A-18B received fuel from a 707 tanker. All the equipment was installed in the F/A-18 and as you can see in the video the pilots have their hands over the dashboard during the refueling:


    AARD uses differential GPS, INS and optical tracking. The goal is to have a few only tanker RQ-4 that will be able to refuel all the other Global Hawks. More info: Ares / robots.net / robotpig.net

  • Moderator
    They are not the only people trying http://www.suasnews.com/2010/11/2676/ultra-slow-air-to-air-refuelin...

    Skyraider and Seahawk
  • Wake turbulence is a big issue for planes. In a fluid dynamics class I took, we talked about a jet liner that flipped over while it was landing and was completely due to wake turbulence from another plane. I guess i never considered its effect while trying to refuel another plane. having a UAV that could refuel any plane would greatly reduce the risk for in flight refueling procedures. I like it.
  • There was no actual refueling. It was just a test flight evaluating the control algorithms in close formation flight with one craft in the wake of another at high altitude. This is only a test. Having flown close formation flight myself, (my butt was in the plane), I know that wake turbulance from a plane your own size can really throw you around. This is not a trivial matter. It's requires preplanning and discipline from both pilots(human not silicon). They must have used some form of machine vision control to pull this off. Congrats to them!
  • Ah I see. I guess I glanced over the description and saw simulated, so I thought it was going to be 3D modeled. Then when I saw real video footage it kind of went out of my mind. That's pretty amazing none-the-less. I'm curious to know if the two UAVs communicate, and if so how? I'd imagine the latency of satellite communication would be too high for this type of operations.
  • 3D Robotics
    Yes, as the description says, this is simulated.
  • Am I blind or did they not actually show the refueling process? It looks like the UAV needing fuel was still trying to get aligned.
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