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Autonomous and Remote Refueling Grounding System



OBJECTIVE: The Autonomous and Robotic Remote Refueling Point (AR3P) concept is a project addressing the range and on-station time limitations and mission risks faced by current military Rotary Wing (RW) aircraft. The AR3P project is an Operational Energy initiative for Aviation Refueling led by the US Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) as a means to reduce soldier exposure and reduce demand for fuel on the battlefield. As part of this effort a capability gap has been identified in currently available Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and Government-off-the-shelf (GOTS) technology to achieve remote and autonomous electrical grounding. This effort will be focused on closing that gap. 

DESCRIPTION: The AMRDEC has been pursuing the AR3P platform through a partnership between its Aviation Development Directorate and its Operational Energy Lab. The initial concept for the AR3P concept has been demonstrated but has identified capabilities gaps in some technical areas, with specific gaps in grounding each of the subsystems as well as establishing a ground with the aircraft prior to fuel transfer. In this SBIR, feasibility and maturation of an autonomous and remote electrical grounding approach is needed to enable the ability of executing an autonomous fueling mission with no human-in-the-loop. At present, there is no means of remotely establishing an earth ground IAW specifications delineated in MIL-HDBK-419B – Grounding, Bonding, and Shielding for Electronic Equipment and Facilities. This effort will address the physical complexity, engineering, and solutions development need to achieve the stated goal. All innovative solutions will be pursued as a part of this effort to include new system design, COTS, GOTS, and other engineering solutions. At present, no known system is available to accomplish the holistic objective set forth in this SBIR. This effort will address the technical solution itself, size, transportability, component availability, and engineering complexity and simplicity. 

PHASE I: Conduct a detailed feasibility analysis of the grounding and refueling AR3P target system for the Apache aircraft and determine likelihood of success for grounding the system and aircraft utilizing COTS, GOTS, or new system design to be compliant with all government regulations. Demonstrate that the stated goal is achievable and lay out next steps for development, design, and implementation of autonomous aircraft and system grounding. Period of performance of the Phase I effort is to be 6 months. 

PHASE II: Based on the outcomes of Phase I, implement initial prototype design, development, build, and test for the subject system or integrate the COTS/GOTS systems identified in Phase I into the overall system. Careful focus will be placed on engineering complexity and integration of grounding solution into overall system that solves the subject challenge. 

PHASE III: The development of an autonomous electrical grounding system will be utilized for next generation Army Aviation fueling operations and could also be leveraged across services to both the Air Force and Navy in multiple domains from Aviation to land vehicles and ships. Search and Rescue operations conducted by Homeland Security, National Parks Service, and the US Coast Guard could leverage this technology in a variety of environments where human intervention is not possible and remote operations are required. In the commercial sector, there is opportunity in the commercial aviation and shipping industry when these assets are operated in remote locations. The technology developed here would reduce the need for human intervention thereby removing people from potentially remote or harmful environments while extending the range and effectiveness of existing airborne, land vehicles, and ship platforms to support remote operations. 


1: "Hot refuels keep aircraft flying,"

2:  "Marine Aviation Hot Refueling,"

3:  "Earthing and Bonding of Aircraft and Ground Support Equipment," AC 21-99 Aircraft Wiring and Bonding, Sect 2 Chap 14.

KEYWORDS: Autonomous, Remote, Electrical Grounding, Refueling, Operational Energy, Future Vertical Lift (FVL), Expeditionary Maneuver, Mobility 


William Nikonchuk 

(256) 842-3374 

James Burgess 

(757) 878-1794 

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