Airbus develops in-flight refueling automation - Companies

Airbus develops in-flight refueling automation – Companies

Airbus’ tanker aircraft, the A330 MRTT, in service in 11 countries, has been certified to automatically refuel aircraft in flight, a first intended to improve safety during often very long missions.

The device, sold in 72 copies worldwide, notably in France and the United Kingdom, is “the first aircraft to be certified for daytime air-to-air refueling operations“following a test campaign conducted with the Singaporean Air Force, the aircraft manufacturer announced in a press release.

Concretely, with the help of cameras, computer software automatically guides the refueling pole towards the fighter or transport plane then connects it for him deliver 4,500 liters of fuel per minuteexplained Jean-Brice Dumont, head of military aircraft at Airbus, during a press conference.

Automation improves safetythe reproducibility and the resilience of the operations which are now increasingly time-consuming for air-to-air refueling, it reduces the workload of the boom operator who must remain concentrated for a long period”, he developed .

At this stage, the device is certified to refuel F-16 aircraft, but could just as well do so for the French Rafales or the British Eurofighters if the countries decide to equip them with this function.

For Airbus, this is a first step towards completely autonomous refueling, observed Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, president of Airbus UpNext, an entity of the aircraft manufacturer responsible for testing advanced technologies.

A technological demonstration dubbed Auto’Mate must thus look into the means of developing automation in the plane to be refueled. Technological bricks, involving in particular automated formation flight, must thus be tested next year until mid-2024 to test the supply of drones.

“Auto’Mate will pioneer unmanned aerial refueling operations, a much-requested capability for future defense scenarios,” according to the aircraft manufacturer.

The United States Air Force, which plans to open a new competition to acquire 179 additional refueling aircraft, has indicated that it is interested in more automation for in-flight refueling.

Developing this technology could constitute a major advantage for Airbus against Boeing’s KC-46 which accumulates problems.

The aircraft, 72 of which have been sold worldwide, notably to France and the United Kingdom, is “the first aircraft to be certified for daytime in-flight refueling operations” following a test campaign carried out with the Singaporean Air Force, the aircraft manufacturer announced in a press release. In concrete terms, using cameras, computer software automatically guides the refueling pole to the fighter or transport aircraft and then connects it to deliver it. 4,500 liters of fuel per minute, explained Jean-Brice Dumont, head of military aircraft at Airbus, during a press conference. “Automation improves the safety, reproducibility and resilience of operations which are now increasingly longer for in-flight refueling, it reduces the workload of the boom operator who must remain concentrated for a long period”, he developed. At this stage, the device is certified to refuel F-16 planes, my is could just as well do it for the French Rafale or the British Eurofighter if the countries decide to equip them with this function. For Airbus, this is a first step towards completely autonomous refueling, observed Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, president of ‘Airbus UpNext, an entity of the aircraft manufacturer responsible for testing advanced technologies. A technological demonstration called Auto’Mate must therefore look at ways to develop automation in the plane to be refueled. Technological bricks, involving in particular automated formation flight, must thus be tested next year until mid-2024 to test the refueling of drones. “Auto’Mate will be the pioneer of unmanned aerial refueling operations, a much-requested capability for future defense scenarios,” according to the aircraft manufacturer. interested in more automation for in-flight refueling. Developing this technology could be a major asset for Airbus in the face of Boeing’s KC-46, which is accumulating problems.

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