March 9, 2011
A government-industry team is getting closer to demonstrating that unmanned vehicles can be refueled at high altitudes by other UAVs. In a January 21 test, Northrop Grumman’s piloted Proteus aircraft flew as close as 40 feet to an unmanned NASA Global Hawk, also produced by Northrop Grumman, while the two aircraft cruised at 45,000 feet.
With participation from NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the flight was the latest benchmark in a program that will see the first autonomous fuel transfer from one UAV to another, scheduled for spring 2012. That effort, which will use two Global Hawks, promises a capability for continuous flights of one of the UAVs for up to a week.