Solving the problem of autonomous refuelling with robots

Mar 31, 2011
Solving the problem of autonomous refuelling with robots
COBHAM, SWRDA and University of Bristol personnel at the launch event for the RMR Centre of Excellence

Robots will be used to help solve the problem of autonomous engagement for in-flight refuelling. This new research could pave the way for civil or military unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flights to last days or even weeks.

A relative motion robotics centre of excellence will open at the University of Bristol to research and develop an autonomous engagement solution for in-flight refuelling. Cobham Mission Equipment has commissioned the centre, as part of the ASTRAEA Autonomy and Decision Making project. The South West RDA is providing significant support to this aspect of the program.

A team of engineers from the University's Department of Aerospace Engineering and Cobham are working together to investigate and solve the challenges surrounding the "hook-up problem space", where technology will have to replicate the skills of a pilot in this challenging evolution.

This will involve the installation of two industrial robots, one track mounted, linked to a synthetic environment, to imitate the positional relationship between a tanker and receiver utilising the hose, drogue and probe refuelling system.

Dr. Tom Richardson, Lecturer in Flight Mechanics in the Department of at Bristol University, said: "Autonomous refuelling is a key component of future UAV operations, where flights for coastal and border surveillance might be required to last days or even weeks."

Alongside this research, an advanced composite manufacturing capability using the same robotic facility will be established.  The provision of such a robotics facility has been identified as a key factor for the University to advance its research on automating composites processing. 

It is envisaged that this research will be performed in collaboration with its industrial partners and the wider industrial community in the South West in addition to the newly established National Composites Center.

The Relative Motion Robotics will be situated within the new Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS), part of the University's Faculty of Engineering.  The centre will be fully operational by this Autumn and in due course, will be available to the wider academic and industrial community for research within sectors such as maritime or manufacturing.

The ASTRAEA program is jointly funded by UK industry and the public sector. Its objective is to enable the routine use of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) in all classes of airspace without the need for restrictive or specialised conditions of operation. The aim is the development and demonstration of key technologies and operating procedures required to open up the airspace.

Mr. Richard Bourne, Program Manager Research and Technology at Cobham Mission Equipment, said: "The development of this capability at Bristol University is crucial for addressing a significant issue within the evolving UAV market.  It has already established stronger ties between the Company and the University which we hope to develop further and it will also deliver a flexible capability for further broad utilisation by industry and academia."

Explore further: Researchers use passive UHF RFID tags to detect how people interact with objects

Related Stories

Showcase UAV demonstrates 'Flapless Flight'

Sep 27, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A novel unmanned air vehicle (UAV) which showcases a wide range of new technologies has successfully demonstrated 'flapless flight' in the UK.

Proxy Aviation Systems Unveils SkyWatcher

Jun 28, 2005

Proxy Aviation Systems recently unveiled SkyWatcher, a long endurance, low and medium altitude, multi-payload unmanned aircraft system at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's (AUVSI) demonstration ...

Boeing ScanEagle to Achieve European Air Show First

Jul 18, 2005

Boeing ScanEagle will become the first fixed wing Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to fly at a European public air show, when it takes to the skies at the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at RAF Fairford, July 16 - 17. ...

Recommended for you

Intellectual property in 3D printing

Apr 16, 2015

The implications of intellectual property in 3D printing have been outlined in two documents created for the UK government by Bournemouth University's Dinusha Mendis and Davide Secchi, and Phil Reeves of Econolyst Ltd.

World-record electric motor for aircraft

Apr 16, 2015

Siemens researchers have developed a new type of electric motor that, with a weight of just 50 kilograms, delivers a continuous output of about 260 kilowatts – five times more than comparable drive systems. ...

Space open for business, says Electron launch system CEO

Apr 15, 2015

Space, like business, is all about time and money, said Peter Beck, CEO of Rocket Lab, a US company with a New Zealand subsidiary. The problem, he added, is that, in cost and time, space has remained an incredibly ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.