US demos robotic aviation refuelling system
The US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) recently demonstrated initial capabilities of an unmanned air refuelling system to limit helicopters' time on the ground and remove soldiers from isolated fuelling stations.
The demonstration unveiled a new science and technology effort called the Autonomous and Robotic Remote Refuelling Point (AR3P).
By using self-aligning robotics, articulated arms and sensors, the system can support a quick hook-up, ultimately reducing the receiving aircraft's time on the ground. The robotic system can also increase safety by removing soldiers from the fuelling station.
The AR3P uses an isolated forward arming and refuelling point approach to provide an autonomous, unmanned refuelling capability using existing technologies. These technologies include aviation ground support equipment, sensors, energy efficient sustainment equipment, aircraft components with minor modifications and aircraft refuelling interfaces and equipment.
A majority of the robotic package came are commercial off-the-shelf materials, but the fuel port system is an AMRDEC-designed solution. Use of additive manufacturing assisted in the rapid prototyping of the project.
Currently, the project is addressing technical risk areas under Phase 2 and hopes to establish a framework for future funding. Phase 3 will include aircraft modification and flight testing of a Mosquito Test aircraft, while the final phase will feature a flight test of an Apache AH-64 at the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate at Fort Eustis, Virginia.
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