According to user studies, although a high percentage of in-flight refueling operations are successful, the margin of failure is significant, which could have a negative impact on operations and even endanger those involved. This manifest need for human operator interaction would jeopardize the applicability of this type of refueling for unmanned aircraft, more commonly known as drones or UAVs in the military field.
Currently, the leading tanker aircraft in Europe and worldwide is the Airbus A330 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) platform.
This platform carries out almost fully automated refueling operations using rigid booms. However, there are receivers that require the hose-and-drogue system.
The European Defence Agency (EDA), through CapTech, takes stock of the interests of the Member States and sets them out in its roadmaps. This process automation is in line with these interests and, as a result, the “Automatic Air-to-Air Refuelling – Hose & Drogue, Phase 1 (A3R H&D1)” project has recently been launched, aiming to endow this operation with a greater degree of autonomy.
In November, the facilities of the Airbus Defence and Space Campus in Getafe hosted the first meeting of the project participants. GMV attended this meeting to present its technical capabilities and the activities it is carrying out as part of the project, including the fitting of sensors to the hose-and-drogue to collect performance data. GMV will develop the hardware that will be on board the drogue of the in-flight hose refueling system. The data gathered, both in simulations and flight tests, will be analyzed afterwards to determine the precise relative positioning between the tanker and the hose-and-drogue. The goal is to provide accurate positioning data relative to the visual tracking data, thus improving the accuracy and integrity of the system.
By taking part in this project, GMV will be able to expand its capabilities in the development of onboard and certifiable equipment.