Autonomous aerial refueling (AAR) for carrier-based UAVs has taken another step forward, according to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). During a Sept. 6t test, NAVAIR and Northrop Grumman used various aircraft, as well as systems from the X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D), to simulate an AAR mission.
Calspan Aerospace designed and installed an inert refueling probe on an unmanned Learjet, NAVAIR said. Northrop Grumman installed an X-47B’s navigation, command-and-control, and vision processor hardware and software on the Learjet, while a U.S. government team installed a government-designed refueling interface system and tanker operator station on an Omega 707 tanker aircraft. The Learjet then flew autonomously behind the 707.
“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 Capt. Jaime Engdahl, Navy Unmanned Combat Air System program manager.
“The initial tests showed excellent system integration as well as good navigation and vision system performance.”