2008-07-21 - Sky-X flight refuelling tesAlenia Aeronautica: flight-refuelling simulation, a new record for the Sky-X

Sky-X simuliert Luftbetankung<br /> A new record, a world record this time, for Alenia Aeronautica, a Finmeccanica company, and for its unmanned development and demo programme: taking-off from the Italian Air Force's Amendola Base, in the Puglia Region, the Sky-X, jet unmanned aircraft, has successfully completed for the first time in the world, a series of join-up manoeuvres with another airplane to simulate a flight-refuelling operation, in a completely automated way.

During testing, the Sky-X has successfully carried out, with no intervention by the ground control station's technicians, all chasing, approaching, alignment and flight-refuelling simulation manoeuvres with a tanker aircraft (in this case an Alenia Aeronautica's C-27J), getting near to the air-refueller by few metres, the actual distance necessary for this operation. The Sky-X has then returned to the base, landing and rolling up to the parking area, always in a completely automated way.
Alenia Aeronautica's activity on the Sky-X, equipped with an advanced mission management system, has recently focused on developing capabilities of aircraft in flight, "chasing" and approaching to another airplane at shortest distance (in the tests made, the C-27J was flying at an altitude of  6000 feet and at 140 ktas of speed on the Adriatico Sea), in order to accomplish a "virtual" flight refuelling operation. The manoeuvre may be manhandled by the ground operators, or in a completely automated way under the total control of the Sky-X's board computer; this computer has skills of working-out flight data, planning approaching routes,  enter in visual contact with the tanker, thanks to a high-performance new mission computer and to the GPS/optical chasing systems, on the basis of the sensors' reading of its visual system, of completing flight-refuelling mission, keeping its speed  and checking its position in respect to the tanker aircraft.  The system has also proved to be capable of accomplishing the outdistancing from the refueller and of re-programming routes until landing (during tests two flights have been envisaged, with two approachings, for a duration of the automated mission of over one hour, from taking-off to landing).

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