posted on Dec, 24 2014 @ 07:12 PM
You guys have pretty much nailed it why it has a receptacle and a probe. Because of the former Air Force/Navy program. Now that its just navy they
will probably just put the probe on it.
However, one thing we learned during all the test flights is that it is sooooooo much easier to get a drone to autonomously fly in a "flight
envelope" where it can make small mistakes (ie telescoping, azimuth, elevation changes with the tanker) using lidar and whatever else they come up
with. Which is why the boom/receptacle approach worked out so much better than the probe/drogue approach. With the boom/receptacle approach, the boom
operator can control all the movements of that boom and make the contact by flying the boom into the receptacle. Easier said than done with a UAV but
you get the idea.
Having a boom operator doing all the work and having the UAV just needing to fly at a certain speed, altitude, ect 12 feet behind the tanker for
contact is way easier than having a UAV try to put its probe into a drogue. Hell there are superhornet pilots that have difficulty making a contact
with a drogue. You should see them try to stab at that damn thing sometimes. lol.
And thats where the difficulty has lived. At first it was how do you get a drone that is being flown from a guy around the world, where even with
cameras there is going to be a satellite delay, to put his probe in a drouge that is constantly making up/down and left/right minor movements at all
time. Then with autonomy, it was hell lets just build these damn super computers that can make a trillion corrections a second to the flight controls
and install them in these stealthy platforms.
I've said this since my very first contact in boom school...I never, as a boom, want to be in a position where i don't have absolute control over
every aspect of in-flight refueling. With receiver pilots we can use "breakaways" where if the boom says that over the air there is no questioning
the order. The boom operator disconects, retracts the boom and flies it up and out of the way, at the same time saying over the air "(Tanker call
sign), BREAKAWAY, BREAKAWAY, BREAKAWAY" and manually flashes every pilot director light we have under the aircraft in case of comm failure. The
tanker pilot full throttles the engines and the receiver drops a thousand feet in five seconds at idle.
So how does a UAV know when theres a breakaway? what if it doesnt follow precedure? Lots of problems that had to be answered and most of them were.
Even with the Lear jets acting as stand in UAV's in full autonomous mode we had problems with them closing from fifty feet behind us to 12 feet. They
kept creeping closer and closer after getting to the 12 foot mark. At ten feet the boom, if in auto, will automatically disconnect anyway so it was
hard to make a contact at 12 feet and watch them keep sliding closer and closer wondering if they would stop.
Anyway, I've ragged on too much for now. lol