Terminal Guidance for Autonomous Aerial Refueling

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Title: Terminal Guidance for Autonomous Aerial Refueling
Creators: Higgins, Nicholas
Advisor: Whitfield, Clifford
Issue Date: 2011-06
Abstract: Autonomous Aerial Refueling of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV-AAR) has been determined to be possible through the development of an autonomous system with terminal guidance capabilities for a probe-and-drogue refueling configuration. An aircraft tanker and UAV were selected for analysis and determination of system constraints. The UAV’s mechanics and performance characteristics were determined to understand the aircraft’s stability and controllability characteristics. A hardware system necessary for autonomously docking the probe with the drogue was developed using colored light emitting diodes. The flow-field behind an aircraft tanker wing was analyzed to understand the effects of the wake acting on the aircraft to be refueled, and to determine where the pilot must initiate the terminal guidance system. From this analysis, it was determined that the UAV will enter the dangerous flow-field at about 175 feet behind the location of the drogue, approximately 250 feet from the tanker’s wing. This area was named the terminal flight arena – the area in which the pilot can no longer control the UAV without a guidance system. Multiple fixed-flight paths for this flight arena were analyzed to determine changing forces acting on the UAV. Utilizing the determined performance characteristics, the control surface deflections necessary for steady flight through these fixed-flight paths were calculated. The best fixed-flight path for UAV-AAR was a path angled ten degrees below a horizontal path, which resulted in the most minimal change of control surface deflection throughout the terminal flight arena. The overall fixed-flight path control surface deflection analysis will be used to assist in developing a strategy for an autonomous system. The Dual-Optimal Path-Planning technique will be implemented for development of the autonomous system for terminal guidance. The technique will follow a given loop which will allow the UAV to fly within a predetermined window based on the UAV’s maneuvering abilities, the locations of minimum induced force that will act on the UAV, the location and orientation of the drogue, and the quickest path for approach and a successful rendezvous.
Embargo: No embargo
Series/Report no.: The Ohio State University. Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Undergraduate Research Theses; 2011
Keywords: aerial refueling
unmanned aerial vehicle
uav autonomy
uav controls
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/48751
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