U.S. Navy unmanned aircraft autonomously refuels in flight
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – Over the coast of Maryland and Virginia in the Atlantic Test Ranges, the Navy’s Unmanned Combat Air System program completed a test objective of an Autonomous Aerial Refueling (ARR) of an unmanned aircraft, the X-47B.
During the exercise, the X-47B connected to the Omega K-707 tanker aircraft using the Navy’s probe-and-drogue method. The X-47B exchanged refueling messages with the Refueling Interface System (RIS) and autonomously maneuvered its refueling probe into the Omega K-707 tanker’s drogue receiving 4,000 pounds of fuel.
“The ability to autonomously transfer and receive fuel in flight will increase the range and flexibility of future unmanned aircraft platforms, ultimately extending carrier power projection," says Capt. Beau Duarte, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation program manager.
The Navy has completed several tests with the X-47B in the last few years. As this segment of the program comes to an end, the Navy continues to develop its unmanned carrier-based platform with the United States Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program.