Defense

September 11, 2013

Navy autonomous aerial refueling tests underway

This Calspan Learjet, shown with inert probe in aerial refueling observation position, flies as a surrogate autonomous aircraft and is outfitted with the X-47B‘s navigation, command and control, and vision processor hardware and software to assess autonomous aerial refueling functionality and performance for both Navy and Air Force style refueling techniques. The AAR testing allows the Navy to demonstrate multiple technologies that are expected to significantly increase the endurance and range of carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

 

The Navy continues to demonstrate multiple technologies that promise to significantly increase the endurance and range of carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

As part of the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration program, the Navy and industry partner Northrop Grumman completed another phase of its Autonomous Aerial Refueling test, Sept. 6, in Niagara Falls, N.Y. to demonstrate the capability to refuel unmanned aircraft in flight.

“The AAR segment of the UCAS-D program is intended to demonstrate technologies, representative systems, and procedures that will enable unmanned systems to safely approach and maneuver around tanker aircraft. We are demonstrating both Navy and Air Force style refueling techniques,” said Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program manager. The Navy, Air Force, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have been working closely since 2001 to develop technologies and mature operating concepts for AAR, according to Engdahl.

In preparation for this phase of the AAR testing, Calspan Aerospace developed, built, and tested an inert refueling probe that they installed on the nose of a surrogate unmanned aircraft, a Learjet inflight simulator. In August, the AAR UCAS-D team arrived at the Calspan facility and while a team from Northrop Grumman installed the X-47B’s navigation, command and control, and vision processor hardware and software on a Calspan Learjet aircraft, the government team installed the government developed Refueling Interface System and Tanker Operator Station on an Omega 707 tanker aircraft. The team then conducted initial ground and taxi tests, which culminated in the first AAR test flight Aug. 28. The team then conducted a series of flights using the surrogate aircraft equipped to fly autonomously behind an Omega K-707 Tanker.

From the pilot‘s perspective, the Calspan Learjet inert probe approaches an Omega Tanker drogue during a UCAS-D program Autonomous Aerial Refueling test. The Learjet flies as a surrogate autonomous aircraft and is outfitted with the X-47B’s navigation, command and control, and vision processor software and hardware to assess autonomous aerial refueling functionality and performance for both the Air Force and Navy style refueling techniques. The AAR testing allows the Navy to demonstrate multiple technologies that are expected to significantly increase the endurance and range of carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

The AAR test was designed to assess the functionality of final X-47B AAR systems and navigation performance, as well as to test the government tanker refueling interface systems. The AAR program is using similar digital messaging, and navigation processes that have been demonstrated by the UCAS-D team aboard the aircraft carrier.

“Demonstrating AAR technologies and standard refueling procedures is the next logical step for our demonstration program. The team has shown that we can use the same systems architecture, Rockwell Collins TTNT datalink, and Precision Relative GPS (PGPS) algorithms to extend the concept of distributed control of autonomous systems from the aircraft carrier to the airborne refueling environment,” said Engdahl. “The initial tests showed excellent system integration as well as good navigation and vision system performance.”

The next phase of AAR testing will continue later this fall, exercising end-to-end AAR concept of operations with a complete autonomous rendezvous, approach, plug, and safe separation utilizing X-47B software and hardware installed in the Lear surrogate aircraft. Data from the demonstration will be used to assess system performance for multiple AAR refueling technologies, validate the AAR procedures and concepts, and support further development of future unmanned systems.

“By demonstrating that we can add an automated aerial refueling capability to unmanned or optionally manned aircraft, we can significantly increase their range, persistence and flexibility,” said Engdahl, who is very impressed with the system’s performance thus far. “This is a game-changer for unmanned carrier aviation.”




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


 
 

 
spacecamp

Space Camp: Once in a lifetime experience

PALMDALE, Calif.–“Amazing,” “inspiring” and “motivating” were a few of the words Space Camp graduates Lauren Baker and Ethan Calderone used to describe their experience recent experienc...
 
 
ISS-soyuz

Soyuz Heads to ISS with new crew, return transportation for one-year mission team

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ Three crew members representing Russia, Denmark and Kazakhstan have launched to the International Space Station to provide a new ride home for the station’s one-year crew and continu...
 
 
LMOrion1

Orion arrives in Colorado

The Orion crew module flown 3,600 miles into space during Exploration Flight Test-1 has arrived to the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company headquarters in Littleton, Colorado. While in Colorado, engineers will perform final d...
 

 
ULAlaunch

United Launch Alliance successfully launches U.S. Navy’s MUOS-4

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the fourth Mobile User Objective System satellite for the U.S. Navy launched from Space Launch Complex-41 at 6:18 a.m., EDT, Sept. 2 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. T...
 
 

Reaching goal early, VA/DOD Online service tops 5 million users

Participation in the joint Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Department eBenefits website topped 5 million users this week, two months ahead of schedule, officials said. VA officials said they established an agency priority goal of reaching 5 million eBenefits users by the end of fiscal year 2015, and achieved this early milestone through aggressive...
 
 

Headlines August 31, 2015

News: Pilot killed in crash was helping wounded veterans – A pilot who died in a small plane crash in the desert northeast of Los Angeles was giving free glider rides to wounded military veterans. Turkey carries out first air strikes as part of anti-Isis U.S. coalition – Turkish fighter jets have carried out their first air...
 




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=""> <s> <strike> <strong>