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.


 
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds

F-35B successfully completes wet runway, crosswind testing

Lockheed Martin photograph by Tom Reynolds F-35B aircraft BF-4, piloted by Lockheed Martin Test Pilot Dan Levin, starts down the runway as part of wet runway and crosswind testing at Edwards AFB, Calif. In an important program ...
 
 
Air Force photograph by MSgt. J. Wilcox

Tyndall AFB takes F-22 pilot training to next level

Air Force photograph by MSgt. J. Wilcox Two F-22 Raptors and a T-38 Talon from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, fly together during a 43rd Fighter Squadron Basic Course training mission Oct. 7, 2013 over Florida. A sortie begin...
 
 
Army photograph by David Vergun

Senior leaders explain Army’s drawdown plan

Army photograph by David Vergun No commander is happy when notified that a soldier from his or her command has been identified for early separation. But commanders personally notify those Soldiers and ensure participation in th...
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom

F-35 Rollout Marks U.S.-Australia Partnership Milestone

Lockheed Martin photograph by Beth Groom Royal Australian Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown delivers his remarks at the roll out ceremony for Australia’s first F-35. The official rollout of the first two F-35 Lightning II...
 
 
Air Force photograph by A1C Erin OíShea

U.S. Forces display military might at Farnborough

Air Force photograph by A1C Erin O’Shea Capt. Tom Meyers discusses the F-15E Strike Eagle’s capabilities with spectators July 17, 2014, at the Farnborough International Airshow in England. Public access was granted ...
 
 
raptors4

Raptors, Falcons fuel up in desert skies

Three U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., fly alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 93rd Air Refueling Squadron, Fairchild AFB, Wash., during Red Flag 14-3, Ju...
 




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>