Boom and Receptacle Autonomous Air Refueling Using a Visual Pressure Snake Optical Sensor Conference Paper uri icon


  • Autonomous in-flight air refueling is an important capability for the future deployment of unmanned air vehicles, since they will likely be ferried in flight to overseas theaters of operation instead of being shipped unassembled in containers. This paper introduces a vision sensor based on active deformable contour algorithms, and a relative navigation system that enables precise and reliable boom and receptacle autonomous air refueling for non micro sized unmanned air vehicles. The sensor is mounted on the tanker aircraft near the boom, and images a single passive target image painted near the refueling receptacle on the receiver aircraft. Controllers are developed for the automatic control of the refueling boom, and for the station keeping controller of the receiver aircraft. The boom controller is integrated with the active deformable contour sensor system, and feasibility of the total system is demonstrated by simulated docking maneuvers in the presence of various levels of turbulence. Results indicate that the integrated sensor and controller enables precise boom and receptacle air refueling, including consideration of realistic measurement errors and disturbances.

name of conference

  • AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference and Exhibit

published proceedings

  • AIAA Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference and Exhibit

author list (cited authors)

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

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Doebbler, James||Valasek, John||Monda, Mark||Schaub, Hanspeter

publication date

  • August 2006