Airbus is developing technology to disrupt refueling

The Airbus Defense and Space business unit is developing a disruptive technology for fully autonomous aircraft refueling called Automat, working with the company’s wholly-owned innovation subsidiary Airbus Upnext.

Airbus UpNext also brings technologies to assist pilots Aircraft design to address new propulsion systems and stability challenges to further enhance aircraft safety and operational efficiency.

Last March, A A demonstration of the Automate using an Airbus test pet tanker aircraft and four unmanned drones It marked a major milestone for autonomous aircraft refueling capabilities, which will be followed by an even more ambitious flight campaign later this year.

Safety, reliability and performance

Al Automating in-flight refueling without human intervention, A tanker aircraft can take control of a “receiver” aircraft several kilometers away, autopilot it to the correct position to receive fuel, followed by an actual fuel transfer through the tanker’s refueling probe, and finally a safe separation maneuver. of activity.

Aircraft refueling procedures used today require coordination between the crew of a tanker aircraft and the pilot of the “receiving” aircraft. By using autonomous technologies, the process will benefit from greater safety, reliability and efficiency. Other advantages are the ability to conduct more efficient operations, including fuel transfer in extremely low visibility conditions, and reduced training costs for aircrew.

More importantly, Automated technology paves the way for aerial refueling of unmanned combat aerial vehicles. Drones are a key unmanned component of Europe’s future combat airspace (FCAS), along with repurposing technologies in long-range aircraft carriers and “faithful support” operations. Also, Automate will eventually lead to unmanned autonomous tanker aircraft.

Airbus is focused on the evolution of autonomous in-flight refueling Three main technology pillars:

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– Different types of cameras (resolution, field of view), high-precision satellite global positioning and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms;

– advanced aviation communication networks; Y

– and cooperative control mechanisms and conflict avoidance.

Next step

Airbus is well positioned to take this next step for aerial refueling, Starting with the A310 MRTT (Multi Role Tanker Transport) which entered service in 2004, it continues to build on its experience in the field with the new generation A330 MRTT.

The A330 MRTT positions Airbus as a leader in multi-purpose tank transport, It pioneered advances such as the use of fly-by-wire control for refueling inspection and the development of a high-definition 2D/3D digital system for enhanced visualization by refueling operators.

Australia, France, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have ordered a total of 60 A330 MRDT aircraft. Military deployments and humanitarian operations.

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