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"Look Mom, no hands"  (Source: Defense Industry Daily)
DARPA completes successful autonomous in-flight refueling without pilot intervention

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is always on the forefront of technology. When DARPA isn’t collaborating with research centers to develop technology for the consumer sector, it’s looking at ways to advance military technology. DARPA's latest achievement is no exception.

DARPA and NASA successfully completed a demonstration of an autonomous system for in-flight refueling -- a procedure that has become all too familiar for military pilots on extended missions.

The Autonomous Airborne Refueling Demonstration (AARD) used a combination GPS, video mapping and fly-by-wire antics to plug an F/A-18's refueling nozzle into a 707-300 tanker's fuel receptacle. DARPA and NASA completed 18 successful tests using a variety of control methods and under a varying range of flight conditions.

"The system further demonstrated the ability to join the tanker from up to two nautical miles behind, 1,000 feet below, and 30 degrees off heading, thus providing a ready transition from the waypoint control approach used by most unmanned aircraft to a fully autonomous refueling mode" DARPA noted in a press release. "In recent flights, automatic sequencing reflected improved confidence in the system, compared to last year’s flight where pilot consent was required at specified points in the refueling maneuver."

"Skilled pilots can actually save some tricky, last second movement the basket has a habit of making, but in so doing they set themselves up for a basket strike, ripping off the basket from the hose, or sometimes breaking the probe or parts of the airplane," said NASA test pilot Dick Ewers.

The AARD further removes human pilots from the equation when it comes to combat situations. Unmanned aircraft are continually being developed by the military to take human pilots out of harm's way. An unmanned aircraft that has the ability to refuel on its own in combat situations would make for an excellent weapon in the military's vast arsenal.

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Top Gun
By Homerboy on 8/15/2007 3:30:19 PM , Rating: 3
STELLAR article picture.

RE: Top Gun
By omnicronx on 8/15/2007 4:04:49 PM , Rating: 3
I was just about to say heh, was that an actual mission photo?

RE: Top Gun
By TomZ on 8/15/2007 4:17:21 PM , Rating: 3
Did you look at the larger version of it - the two pilots are holding their hands in the air - pretty cool.

RE: Top Gun
By MrWho on 8/16/2007 3:00:27 AM , Rating: 2
Naaah! He's maneuvering the stick with his knees!

RE: Top Gun
By VooDooAddict on 8/15/2007 4:19:57 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed. The pain that single screen caused.

RE: Top Gun
By zeroslugfm on 8/15/2007 4:29:57 PM , Rating: 3

Right Right! Speed up! Down Down!

RE: Top Gun
By Brandon Hill on 8/15/2007 4:33:17 PM , Rating: 6
This is the original. The angry gamer:

RE: Top Gun
By S3anister on 8/15/2007 10:54:20 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Top Gun
By idconstruct on 8/18/2007 6:33:31 PM , Rating: 2
rofl i always crack up so bad whenever someone says that lol :P

RE: Top Gun
By Googer on 8/16/2007 3:55:25 AM , Rating: 2
If I remember correctly, that screen shot was from Top Gun on the Original Nintendo NES

Am I reading this right?
By bhieb on 8/15/2007 5:52:08 PM , Rating: 3
fly-by-wire antics

I am sure some guy at DARPA is pissed.

"Antics are you F'ing kidding me it took me 10 years and $2 billion taxpayer dollars to program those antics!"

RE: Am I reading this right?
By bhieb on 8/15/2007 5:53:20 PM , Rating: 2
On a side note two words I never want to hear as a passenger on modern aircraft.

RE: Am I reading this right?
By Anonymous Freak on 8/16/2007 12:43:21 AM , Rating: 2
Antics? Or Fly-By-Wire? I hope not the latter, since every passenger airliner introduced in the past 20 years is fly-by-wire.

Or did you mean the specific combination of the two?

RE: Am I reading this right?
By bhieb on 8/16/2007 9:31:59 AM , Rating: 2
The combo of the 2. I don't really want the technical workings of a plane described as "antics". To me antic has a wimsical or non-sensical undertone.

A ludicrous or extravagant act or gesture; a caper.

Pilots? We don't need no stinking pilots!
By Misty Dingos on 8/15/2007 4:06:06 PM , Rating: 4
It will soon be that the AF will be flying pilotless tankers to refuel pilotless attack aircraft (the 42nd Attack Squadron flying MQ-9 Reapers) to attack enemies that don't even have a country.

I live in a neighborhood with fighter pilots. They are smart guys with an enormous egos. But that goes with the territory. You do not want a timid fighter pilot. Fast thinking smart and aggressive. Oddly engough they are pretty good neighbors too. And I am sure that there will be fighter pilots for a long time to come. Plus I would hate to see all my pilot neighbors crying. That would make me sad.

By akyp on 8/15/2007 9:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
They'll probably still be piloting fighters for years to come, albeit not inside the fighters themselves but in some bunkers or AWACS aircraft.

so what they need....
By Moishe on 8/15/2007 3:38:19 PM , Rating: 1
So what they need is an autonomous tanker automatically filling up the autonomous fighters... a flock of fighting death bots hovering above the battlefield. Very cool!

RE: so what they need....
By FITCamaro on 8/15/2007 3:47:42 PM , Rating: 2
Sharks with lasers on their heads >> everything else

I'm not quite ready to take combat out of human hands. But then I'm also not one who thinks 1 US casualty to achieve a greater objective is unjustifiable. Do I want that 1 person to die? No. Each death is tragic.

But with combat comes risk. Something anyone in the military knows. And they chose to accept that risk. Which is why I honor and respect our armed forces so much.

RE: so what they need....
By Moishe on 8/16/2007 7:25:47 AM , Rating: 2
wow, people have no sense of humor or sarcasm :) ohh well, there is a stack of idiots in every crowd.

How Airplane babies Are Made.
By JasonMick on 8/15/2007 5:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
Jimmy: THAT was disgusting.
Chazz: THAT, young man, is how babies are made.

It looks like the airplane is about to mate with the said fuel device. Or maybe its just been a long day of work.

By Misty Dingos on 8/15/2007 5:17:50 PM , Rating: 3
That is a navy plane, it acts like a guy. AF planes recieve the probe, their planes act like girls. There are so many bad jokes to be made here but I will content myself with the following.

Navy pilots like having a powerful male plane strapped to their ass and AF pilots like having a beautiful female plane on theirs.

This reminds me of the movie "Stealth"
By 16nm on 8/15/2007 5:58:04 PM , Rating: 2
Soon, we will not even need those human pilots. Well, that is until the plane is hit with lightening. LOL

By otispunkmeyer on 8/16/2007 3:57:27 AM , Rating: 2
that movie was garbage.

what jamie foxx smoking when he read the script for that an said

"yes, yes.... i like it"


still, it looked canny good in HD on Sky HD lol

By cbo on 8/15/2007 6:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
Damn I wonder if they can figure out a way to re-arm in mid air. But only over sea if you drop one by accident.

RE: Cool
By Polynikes on 8/15/2007 6:43:52 PM , Rating: 4
That picture kicks ass. Best ever on DT out of those I've seen.

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