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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.