Tech

October 18, 2012

Two Global Hawks fly in close formation, move AHR program closer to autonomous aerial refueling

NASA’s two Global Hawk unmanned aircraft, one with a refueling hose trailing behind, fly in close formation during the DARPA-Northrop Grumman UAV-to-UAV aerial refueling demonstration.

Northrop Grumman, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center have successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations, moving DARPA’s Autonomous High-Altitude Refueling program closer to demonstrating the first autonomous aerial refueling between two unmanned, high-altitude aircraft.

The flights, which used two NASA Global Hawk unmanned aircraft – one configured as a tanker and the other as a receiver – were conducted at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

During the flights, which spanned Jan. 11 to May 30, the AHR team achieved many milestones, including:

 

  • The lead receiver aircraft extended and retracted its aerial refueling hose several times, completing all planned tests to validate the associated program hardware and software.
  • The trail tanker aircraft successfully demonstrated precision control in formation with manual and automated “breakaway” maneuvers – important safety features and criteria of the test program.
  • Two Global Hawk unmanned aircraft successfully flew for the first time in close formation – as close as 30 feet.
  • During the close-formation flight, the aircraft rendezvoused and flew for more than 2.5 hours under autonomous formation control, with the majority of the time within 100 feet (or one wingspan) of each other.

 

“The technical developments that enabled these two high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned Global Hawks in close formation is an outstanding accomplishment for the AHR program,” said Fred Ricker, vice president and deputy general manager for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems’ Advanced Programs & Technology. “Coupled with the advanced design and technical implementation of aerial refueling systems on board both aircraft, the demonstration has truly brought a concept to life, which has the potential to change the operations for unmanned aircraft utility and enable mission flexibility never before realized.”

Northrop Grumman and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center conducted several demonstration flights in the buildup to the close formation flight, which included tanker and receiver first flights and a distant formation flight. The Northrop Grumman-NASA-DARPA team worked closely to ensure that all safety precautions and measures were taken when preparing for and conducting all of the ground and flight demonstrations. Preparation included a calculated approach to ground and flight tests, which included extensive analysis, simulations, laboratory and ground tests as well as multiple safety review boards.

The $33 million DARPA AHR program aims to demonstrate autonomous fuel transfer between two Global Hawks, enabling flights of up to one week endurance. AHR is a follow-on to a 2006 DARPA Autonomous Aerial Refueling Demonstration, a joint effort with NASA Dryden that used an F/A-18 Hornet as a surrogate unmanned aircraft to autonomously refuel via a probe and drogue from a 707 tanker.

As part of the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System Carrier Demonstration program, Northrop Grumman is also developing AAR technology to help extend the operating range and flight duration of future carrier-based unmanned systems. The company plans to conduct AAR demonstrations in 2014 using the Navy’s X-47B unmanned demonstrator aircraft.

In partnership with NASA in the Space Act Agreement, Northrop Grumman supports the operations and maintenance of the two Global Hawks used in the AHR program and is responsible for all engineering design, as well as modification of both aircraft.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines August 25, 2014

News: U.S. sends second carrier to Asia amid tensions with China - The Navy is sending a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Asia Pacific region amid new tensions with China over a dangerous aerial encounter between a Chinese interceptor and a Navy P-8 surveillance aircraft. SpaceX rocket explodes during test flight - A SpaceX rocket...
 
 

News Briefs August 25, 2014

China says U.S. plane intercept was professional China’s Defense Ministry has rejected U.S. accusations that a Chinese fighter jet conducted a dangerous intercept of a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft off the coast of China in international airspace. The ministry issued a statement Aug. 23 attributed to spokesman Yang Yujun calling the U.S. accusations groundless. It...
 
 

Ukraine plans $3 billion boost to defense spending

KIEV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s president announced plans Aug. 24 to boost his country’s defense spending by an estimated 50 percent as government forces seek to overpower pro-Russian separatists in the east. President Petro Poroshenko pledged to spend an extra 40 billion hryvnia ($3 billion) by 2017 during a speech marking Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet...
 

 

NASA awards research facilities, engineering support services contract

NASA has awarded a contract for research facilities and engineering support services to InuTeq, LLC of Greenbelt, Maryland, in support of the Mission Information and Test Systems Directorate at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. This cost-plus-award-fee contract covers a one-year base period beginning Nov. 1, 2014 and four one-year options, and is valued...
 
 

Navy Awards General Dynamics contract for LCS planning yard services

The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics Bath Iron Works a $100 million contract to provide planning yard services for the Littoral Combat Ship program. General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is a business unit of General Dynamics. Bath Iron Works, as the LCS Planning Yard, will provide maintenance and modernization support for all Navy LCS 1...
 
 
boeing-boc

Boeing, BOC Aviation announce order for 82 airplanes

  Boeing announced Aug. 25 an order by BOC Aviation for 50 737 MAX 8s, 30 Next-Generation 737-800s and two 777-300ERs (Extended Range). The order, valued at $8.8 billion at list prices, is the largest in BOC Aviation’...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>