Boom and receptacle autonomous air refueling using visual snake optical sensor Academic Article uri icon


  • Autonomous air refueling is an important capability for the future deployment of unmanned air vehicles, because it permits unmanned air vehicles to be ferried in flight to overseas theaters of operation instead of being shipped unassembled in containers. This paper demonstrates the feasibility of precise and reliable boom and receptacle autonomous air refueling, without a human operator or supervisor, for nonmicrosized unmanned air vehicles. The system is composed of a vision sensor based on active deforma We contour algorithms (visual snakes) and its relative navigation system integrated with a boom controller. The sensor camera is mounted on the tanker aircraft near the boom and images a single passive target image painted near the refueling receptacle on a receiver unmanned air vehicle. Controllers are developed in the paper for the refueling boom, and the stationkeeping controllers of the receiver unmanned air vehicle and tanker aircraft. Performance and feasibility of the total system is demonstrated by simulated docking maneuvers in the presence of various levels of turbulence. Results presented in the paper show that the integrated sensor and controller enables precise boom and receptacle air refueling, including consideration of realistic measurement errors and disturbances.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Doebbler, J., Spaeth, T., Valasek, J., Monda, M. J., & Schaub, H.

citation count

  • 49

complete list of authors

  • Doebbler, James||Spaeth, Theresa||Valasek, John||Monda, Mark J||Schaub, Hanspeter

publication date

  • November 2007