Vision-based sensor and navigation system for autonomous air refueling Academic Article uri icon


  • Autonomous in-flight aerial refueling is an important capability for the future deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles, because they will likely be ferried in flight to overseas theaters of operation instead of being shipped unassembled in containers. A reliable sensor, capable of providing accurate relative position measurements of sufficient bandwidth, is key to such a capability. A vision-based sensor and navigation system is introduced that enables precise and reliable probe-and-drogue autonomous aerial refueling for non-micro-sized unmanned aerial vehicles. A performance robust controller is developed and integrated with the sensor system, and feasibility of the total system is demonstrated by simulated docking maneuvers with both a stationary drogue and a drogue subjected to light turbulence. An unmanned air vehicle model is used for controller design and simulation. Results indicate that the integrated sensor and controller enables precise aerial refueling, including consideration of realistic measurement errors and disturbances.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics

altmetric score

  • 6

author list (cited authors)

  • Valasek, J., Gunnam, K., Kimmett, J., Tandale, M. D., Junkins, J. L., & Hughes, D.

citation count

  • 142

complete list of authors

  • Valasek, J||Gunnam, K||Kimmett, J||Tandale, MD||Junkins, JL||Hughes, D

publication date

  • January 2005