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AFRL and Boeing demonstrate IFR capability with UAVs

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posted on Dec, 8 2007 @ 03:38 PM
During recent tests, the Air Force Research Laboratory and Boeing have demonstrated that UAVs can refuel in flight from tanker aircraft. Using a Learjet that was modified to autonomous flight, they demonstrated the ability to fly in 7 positions behind a KC-135R model. Precontact, contact, left and right inboard observation, left and right outboard observation, and breakaway. They were able to stay in the contact position for 20 minutes.

A pilot flies the Learjet to the rendezvous area, where the flight system takes over and flies the "refueling". No actual refueling took place, but they are calling for Phase II flight tests, which would involve multiple aircraft and an actual fuel transfer to the "UAV".

ST. LOUIS, Dec. 04, 2007 -- Can an unmanned air vehicle be made smart enough to autonomously rendezvous with a tanker aircraft and refuel? Based on recently concluded flight tests by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Boeing [NYSE: BA], it can.

"By adding an automated aerial refueling capability to UAVs, we can significantly increase their combat radius and mission times while reducing their forward staging needs and response times," said David Riley, Boeing Phantom Works program manager for the Automated Aerial Refueling (AAR) program.

The goal of the government-industry AAR program is to develop and demonstrate systems that will enable UAVs to safely approach and maneuver around tanker aircraft so they can successfully perform boom and receptacle refueling operations. The systems -- including a flight control computer and control laws developed by Boeing Phantom Works -- are demonstrated using a Calspan Learjet specially equipped to fly autonomously as a UAV.


[edit on 12/8/2007 by Zaphod58]

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