Airbus trials autonomous aerial refuelling of unmanned aircraft

by Gareth Jennings

Airbus demonstrated its Auto'Mate autonomous aerial refuelling of drones using an A310 MRTT and DT-25 target drones during two trials held earlier in March 2023. (Airbus)

Airbus Defence and Space has trialled the autonomous air-to-air refuelling (AAR) of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), flying two test sorties earlier in March.

Senior programme representatives told Janes and other defence media on 28 March that the two events saw the first successful AAR trials of the Auto'Mate technologies developed by Airbus UpNext, using a modified A310 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft and DT-25 target drone UAVs. These tests were the first step towards Airbus' planned Autonomous Assets Air-to-Air Refuelling (A4R) and Autonomous Formation Flight (AF2) capability for tankers.

“Early in the morning of 21 March, the A310 that was modified with all the sensors needed to perform this first demonstration took off from Getafe Airbase [near Madrid], and flew to the south of Spain where the drones were launched [from the Arenosillo Test Centre (CEDEA) at Huelva]. We performed the rendezvous manoeuvres [over the waters of the Gulf of Cadiz],” said Manuel Barriopedro, the head of Auto'Mate Demonstrator at Airbus UpNext.


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GEOST bets on focal plane, edge computing capabilities for PWSA fire control

by Carlo Munoz

An artist's rendition of Sierra Space's T2TL low Earth orbit satellite prototype for the PWSA. (Sierra Space)

Arizona-based sensor payload company GEOST is betting big that improved focal plane fidelity, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled imagery processing at the edge, will be the solution for the new fire-control payload being developed for the Pentagon's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA).

GEOST – a subsidiary of LightRidge Solutions – and the Space Development Agency (SDA) in February reached a deal for GEOST to develop and produce 16 fire-control mission payloads for Tranche 2 Tracking Layer (T2TL) of the PWSA.

The PWSA payload contract “is a transformational win” for the GEOST team, according to Bill Gattle, CEO of LightRidge Solutions.

The payload development deal “does open up new markets … proving that some of the things we have done, at a smaller scale, we can now do at a larger scale”, he said during an early February interview with Janes .


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General Atomics XQ-67A Off-Board Sensing Station conducts first flight

by Zach Rosenberg

The XQ-67A in flight (location unknown). (GA-ASI)

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI) has flown the XQ-67A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for the first time, the company announced on 29 February.

“Flight demonstration of this system is a major first step towards showing the ability to produce affordable combat mass,” said Trenton White, Air Force Research Laboratory's (AFRL's) Off-Board Sensing Station (OBSS) programme manager, in a statement announcing the flight.

The flight took place on 28 February at GA-ASI's Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility, outside Palmdale, California.

It comes a year after the AFRL selected GA-ASI to build the XQ-67A under the OBSS programme, intended to result in a UAV that could fly ahead of manned aircraft and pass data back, effectively extending their ability to detect and track targets.

“OBSS is the first aircraft type built and flown using a common core chassis developed by GA-ASI that promotes commonality across multiple vehicle types,” said Michael Atwood, GA-ASI vice-president of advanced programmes.


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Indian MoD to procure 5G-enabled surveillance UAVs

by Oishee Majumdar & Rakend P

The Indian MoD is procuring an undisclosed number of Jaga unmanned aerial vehicles (pictured) from Noida-based IG Drones to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces. (IG Drones)

Noida-based IG Drones has secured a contract from the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide its 5G-enabled Jaga unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to enhance the surveillance capabilities of the Indian Armed Forces.

A spokesperson for IG Drones told Janes on 28 February that the company plans to complete the supply of an undisclosed number of its Jaga UAVs to the Indian MoD by the end of May.

The spokesperson said that Jaga is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) quadcopter that “can be deployed from any terrain without the need for a conventional runway”. The UAV has an endurance of five hours, a speed of 18–21 m/s, and an operating altitude of up to 400 ft above ground level, the spokesperson added.


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https://www.janes.com/defence-news/air-platforms/latest/airbus-trials-autonomous-aerial-refuelling-of-unmanned-aircraft

Airbus Defence and Space has trialled the autonomous air-to-air refuelling (AAR) of unmanned aerial ...

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