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.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht

Laser-based aircraft countermeasure provides ‘unlimited rounds’ against MANPADS

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Matt Hecht A U.S. Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter prepares to depart Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Jan 7, 2012. The Apache conducts distributed operations, precision strikes against relocat...
 
 

Navy, Air Force advocate for modernizing combat aviation

Top Navy and Air Force officials today told the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 will support modernizing combat aviation programs. Cavy Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisitions; Air...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo

McConnell community marks B-29 rollout

Air Force photograph by SrA. Victor J. Caputo A B-29 Superfortress aircraft, named Doc after its nose art, sit on the flightline March 23, 2015, in Wichita, Kan. Doc will be one of two Superfortresses in the world capable of fl...
 

 

Future USS John Finn launched

The future USS John Finn (DDG 113) was launched at the Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., shipyard March 28. During launch the drydock was flooded allowing the 637-foot floating dock to slowly submerge until the ship was afloat. Once the drydock was fully submerged, the ship was pulled by tugs to HII’s south berth...
 
 
Courtesy photograph

First production QF-16 arrives at Tyndall

Courtesy photograph Maintainers begin post-flight checks on the first Lot 1 production model QF-16 after it arrived at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 11. The aircraft is the first of 13 deliveries to the 82nd Aerial Target...
 
 
Air Force photograph by A1C Dustin Mullen

E-9A Widget, one of a kind

Air Force photograph by A1C Dustin Mullen An E-9A Widget sits on the flight line in front of hangar 5 Mar. 3 at the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron. The Widget is a modified version of the Bombardier Dash-8, formerly Canadian De Ha...
 




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>