Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Northrop Simulates Global Hawk Aerial Refueling

By Graham Warwick

Northrop Grumman has simulated autonomous aerial refueling between two high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft by flying Scaled Composites’ Proteus in close proximity to a NASA RQ-4 Global Hawk.
At 45,000 ft., the manned Proteus, simulating the tanker, flew to within 40 ft. of the unmanned Global Hawk, acting as the receiver. The flight was conducted to reduce risk for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s KQ-X autonomous high-altitude aerial refueling demonstration, planned for spring 2012.
The demonstration will involve both of NASA’s Global Hawk, one equipped with a refueling boom to act as tanker and one which will deploy a refueling hose and drogue to act as receiver. The tanker will fly behind the receiver in a reversal of normal aerial refueling practice.
The January risk-reduction flight was conducted to evaluate wake turbulence between the aircraft as well as engine performance and flight-control responsiveness at high altitude. Simulated refueling and breakaway maneuvers were conducted.

Video of the Proteus and Global Hawk flying in close proximity can be seen on the Ares defense technology blog: Proteus and Global Hawk Simulate HALE Refueling.
Photo: NASA

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