New Air Force Drones Refuel Without Pilots

Technology gives fighter jets longer striking distance and more time in air
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2007 3:04 PM CDT
A US made F-18 fighter plane. With the possibilities of automated mid-air refueling, unmanned aircraft jaunts are limited only by their maintenance needs.   (Getty Images (by Event))
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(Newser) – A Defense agency has developed an on-board flight system that connects an airplane to a re-fueling aircraft without the need for a human pilot, allowing unmanned fighter jets to remain in the air longer. The technology uses exact inertial, GPS, and video measurements to latch a probe into a 32-inch basket trailed behind a tanker.

The first-ever unmanned refueling took place in August 2006, the Defense Industry Daily, reports, and the military has completed 10 additional flights since then. One successful demonstration occurred at a speed of 250 MPH, 18,000 feet above the Tehachapi Mountai.