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Two Global Hawk UAVs to conduct aerial refueling

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An artistic illustration of NASA Global Hawk air refueling operation. A Northrop photo

SAN DIEGO, US (BNS): In a first-ever maneouver, two Global Hawk high altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of NASA will carry out autonomous aerial refueling exercise.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of US has awarded a $33 million contract to Northrop Grumman to demonstrate aerial refueling of a NASA’s Global Hawk UAV by a sister ship.

Northrop will retrofit two of the high altitude long endurance UAVs, one aircraft pumping fuel into the other in flight through “a hose-and-drogue refueling system,” the company said.

The refueling will take place at a very high altitude during which the UAVs will fly in formation for the first time.

The programme is designated KQ-X.

“Demonstrating the refueling of one UAV by another is a historic milestone. It adds aerial refueling to the list of capabilities that can be accomplished autonomously by Global Hawks; it opens the door to greatly expanded operational utility for UAVs; and, as a side benefit, it promises to increase the safety and reliability of aerial refueling between manned aircraft by reducing pilot workload,” said Carl Johnson, vice president, Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

The maneouver will be carried out in the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Tags:

NASA  Global Hawk  UAV  Northrop  
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