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Discussion on Autonomous Aerial Refueling

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posted on Dec, 16 2014 @ 11:48 PM
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Hey Folks,
Seeing as though it's been a little bit quite lately on the aviation forums, I figured I'd share something that has been capturing my interest lately. And according to a close friend of mine we could be seeing some major advances in this field in the very near future. The very idea of this capability changes drone warfare indefinitely. Automated/Autonomous Aerial Refueling or AAR has the capability to quintuple the flight endurance of platforms already forming the backbone of the fleet.

Improvements in LIDAR and Precision Relative GPS have made it possible for unmanned systems to safely and effectively buddy refuel each other as well as take on fuel from larger manned tankers.

It all starts with the KQ-X program (DARPA/NASA/NG...)

Contrary to common conception, the GH on the left is pushing fuel uphill to the drogue equipped GH on the right. The DoD claims this will reduce the number of aircraft purpose built as tankers. Someone else may like to fill in that logic.
aviationweek.com...

Here we see the optical avionics interpreting the dancing drogue. Keep in mind this is too fast to be conducted in real time, at a ground station for instance, latency prevents this. The AAR flight computer must do all the work.


Grumman isn't the only one getting into the action. Here's a pair of Sierra Nevada upgraded F/A-18's doing a "hands up!" airborne refueling completely automated by the onboard computer.


Here's an article outlining Boeings efforts. They are using a Learjet as their testbed. Whereas NG and SNC are focusing on Probe, Hose 'n Drogue fueling, Boeing is working with the Air Force to develop AAR for boom refueling. The pilots fly up to the vicinity of the tanker, where the flight control computer takes over and marries with the boom.
www.gizmag.com...

My local unit. And some great UAS operators at that.

Here's an Air Force RPA for AAR, jump to page 51. (heads up .pdf)
www.defenseinnovationmarketplace.mil...

Back to my friend here. He says to look back towards Grumman for the next big leap in AAR and soon. However this will happen high over the ocean.....




The ramifications of this are obvious. Triple digit endurance hours, unmanned tankers supporting manned aerial operations and in a navalised platform this can seriously help in the A2/AD by exponentially extending the range of unmanned carrier ops. I am really interested in the progress of LIDAR and would love to hear your thoughts.

What do the boomers in the group say about all of this?


Cheers all




For those interested in the inner workings of short range LIDAR and 3D tracking of aerial objects. Integral in this mission. (heads up .pdf)
www.advancedscientificconcepts.com...

More reading:
gpsworld.com...
www.nasa.gov...-set1-slide10
en.wikipedia.org...
edit on 16-12-2014 by aholic because: sic




posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 12:33 AM
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Cool video man.... I was RIGHT there!!

3-d tracking.....awesome
edit on 17-12-2014 by GBP/JPY because: Yahweh is our new king



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 11:31 AM
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originally posted by: aholic

Contrary to common conception, the GH on the left is pushing fuel uphill to the drogue equipped GH on the right. The DoD claims this will reduce the number of aircraft purpose built as tankers. Someone else may like to fill in that logic.
aviationweek.com...
While there may be some logic somewhere, it's not explained in the article. I don't see what difference it makes whether the fuel is pushed uphill or flows downhill, as a factor in determining the number of purpose built tankers. But I will say that if you have a choice of letting gravity help you versus working against it, there has to be a pretty good reason to want to work against it, and that reason is not really explained well in that link.



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 11:34 AM
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Another couple years to perfect it. *snort*cough*



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 12:46 PM
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Lol this reply will take a while so bare with me for a little bit. I'm one of the first boom operators to conduct in flight refueling testing with UAV systems.....wait for it.......back in 2004. lol



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 12:46 PM
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I spy, with my little eye, something that shouldn't be there.





Now what can that be?



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 12:57 PM
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originally posted by: Zaphod58
I spy, with my little eye, something that shouldn't be there.





Now what can that be?



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 12:57 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Some kid with a chalk stick must have been having some fun....



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 01:42 PM
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a reply to: Sammamishman

damn take your kids to work day at the base.



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 01:56 PM
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a reply to: boomer135

I was surprised to hear that all of this started back in 2002 with darpa. And very cool that you got to be right there apart of that. May I ask if it was a drogue or boom test?



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:10 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Always enjoy the tongue and cheek zaph. Seems as though they've included provisions for both methods??


This prefaces what's about to happen pretty well.
www.uasvision.com...
edit on 17-12-2014 by aholic because: addition



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:14 PM
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Very similar shapes too on the Phantom Ray:



Looks like that kid with the chalk didn't make his way over to the Boeing hanger though....



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:17 PM
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From the Danger Room;


“With multiple aerial refuelings, a UCAS could establish persistent surveillance-strike combat air patrols at ranges well beyond 3,000 nautical miles.” For those of you keeping track, that’s nearly 10 times the range of today’s carrier air wing. -

Game changing....


edit on 17-12-2014 by aholic because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:30 PM
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a reply to: aholic

The X-47 at one point in time was going to be both an Air Force and Navy platform. When that got canceled it was relegated to a tech demonstrator for the Navy.
edit on 12/17/2014 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:41 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Seems as though the budget wouldn't allow it this year. But the year is coming to an end. From what I've heard they do plan to demonstrate both capabilities. I believe both methods will carry over into its operational career as well.
edit on 17-12-2014 by aholic because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 02:50 PM
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a reply to: aholic

Boom refueling has been actively used on other platforms.

As for the X-47, barring a UCLASS win it won't ever see an active role.



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 06:25 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

I think it's a superb contender. Next years UCLASS RFP will be telling.



posted on Dec, 17 2014 @ 06:28 PM
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a reply to: aholic

My money is on Sea Ghost.



posted on Dec, 18 2014 @ 12:04 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Has there been a flight of this yet?



posted on Dec, 18 2014 @ 04:00 AM
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a reply to: aholic

They've been pretty tight lipped about it. The one picture of the full aircraft released slipped past them.



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