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Title:
AIRCRAFT COMMAND AND CONTROL SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/082400
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A command and control system (100) for vessel includes a distributed control system utilizing bi-directional fiber optics to connect a control computer to various controls, including valves, pumps, and lights. A touch screen (102) allows the operator to view signals from the various cameras (120, 130) and simultaneously monitor other systems and controls.

Inventors:
CANNON GEORGE E JR (US)
CANTOR ADAM M (US)
OLMSTEAD OLIN K (US)
WHARTON PATRICK M (US)
Application Number:
US2007/088608
Publication Date:
July 02, 2009
Filing Date:
December 21, 2007
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BOEING CO (US)
CANNON GEORGE E JR (US)
CANTOR ADAM M (US)
OLMSTEAD OLIN K (US)
WHARTON PATRICK M (US)
International Classes:
B64D39/00
Foreign References:
US20060278761A12006-12-14
US20040234151A12004-11-25
US20060060709A12006-03-23
US20060278761A12006-12-14
Other References:
See also references of EP 2231476A1
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JOHNSON, Rosana S et al. (P.O. Box 2515MC 110-SD5, Seal Beach California, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS

1. A refueling system for a refueling vessel, comprising: at least one fuel tank 24, 26, 30, 34, 36 operable to store a volume of fuel; a refueling connection 38 remotely located from the at least one fuel tank; at least two fuel pumps 21 operable to transfer fuel from the at least one fuel tank to the remotely located refueling connection; at least one remotely controlled valve 35; a computer system 46 operable to automatically vary operation of any quantity of the fuel pumps and control the remotely controlled valve between one of the open and closed positions during transfer of the fuel to the refueling connection; a camera system 120, 130; and a centralized control station 100 including a monitor 102; wherein the centralized control station is connected to the camera system and to the computer system using bi-directional fiber optic lines.

2. The refueling system of claim 1, wherein the centralized control station 100 is further connected to the at least two fuel pumps 21 and the at least one remotely controlled valve 35 using bi-directional fiber optic lines.

3. The refueling system of claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the at least one remotely controlled valve 35 is an electrically controlled valve.

4. The refueling system of any of claims 1-3, wherein the monitor 100 comprises a touch screen.

5. The refueling system of any of claims 1 -4, wherein the refueling vessel is an aircraft or a ship 12. 6. A distributed command and control system for a vessel having a plurality of fuel pumps 21, a plurality of motor operated valves 35, a plurality of sensors 25, and at least one refueling connection 38, the control system comprising: a centralized control station 100 including a monitor 102 by which an operator can monitor and control the refueling system; wherein the centralized control station is connected using a fiber optic transmission

system to the computer system 100, the fuel pumps 21, the motor operated valves 35, and the sensors 25.

7. The control system of claim 6, wherein the fiber optic transmission system includes bi-directional fiber optic lines. 8. The control system of claim 6 or claim 7, wherein the centralized control station

100 includes a head mounted display 162.

9. The control system of any of claims 6-8, wherein the refueling system further comprising a plurality of cameras 120, 130 for viewing the position of the refueling connection and the relative position of a receiving vessel. 10. The control system of claim 9, wherein the monitor 102 is configured to display images of any of the plurality of cameras overlaid with at least one data display and at least one control point.

11. The control system of any of claims 6-10, wherein the monitor 102 comprises a touch screen. 12. The control system of any of claims 6-11, wherein the vessel is an aircraft or a ship 12.

13. A method for operating the aircraft refueling system of claim 1, comprising: monitoring the refueling connection 38, fuel tanks 24, 26, 30, 34, 36, fuel pumps 21, and remotely controlled valve from the centralized control station 100; monitoring a receiving aircraft with respect to its position using the camera system 120; positioning a boom and/or drogue using the centralized control station; communicating with the receiving aircraft to dock with the boom and/or drogue; operating the remotely controlled valve to begin the flow of fuel to the receiving aircraft; monitoring the flow of fuel and shutoff alarms using the centralized control station; and

terminating the flow of fuel to the receiving craft as prompted by centralized control station.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the centralized control station 100 includes a head mounted display. 15. The method of claim 13, wherein the monitor 102 of the centralized control station comprises a touch screen.

Description:

AIRCRAFT COMMAND AND CONTROL SYSTEM

Field The present disclosure relates in general to a distributed command and control system for transport systems such as aircraft including spacecraft and ships. The disclosure has particular utility in connection with a command and control system for an aerial refueling system and will be described in connection with such utility, although other utilities are contemplated. Background Aircraft in flight are commonly refueled from a refueling aircraft. The refueling aircraft is typically provided with a boom mechanism or a flexible hose which trails behind the aircraft and physically makes a connection to the aircraft to be refueled. Common refueling aircraft have a plurality of wing fuel tanks and a central wing tank. Auxiliary fuel tanks can also be provided within or proximate to a fuselage of the aircraft. Fuel is commonly transferred to the boom or hose via a pipe which is isolable by one or more shut-off valves. Common refueling systems include pumps to pressurize the fuel for transfer from one or more of the tanks, and valves which are controlled between an open and closed condition by simple on-off switches normally positioned on a refueling system panel and manually selected by a trained refueling operator.

Common refueling systems require the refueling operator within the refueling aircraft to visually monitor flow and pressure indicators and communicate to the receiving aircraft whose operator/pilot can monitor fuel tank levels. The refueling operator is responsible to manually initiate and shut down the flow of fuel. Inadvertent disconnect of the refueling boom or hose can therefore occur before the receiving aircraft receives a full fuel load if an excess number of fuel transfer pumps are operated or if a pressure spike occurs. Some systems provide automatic disconnect of the refueling boom or hose upon reaching a predetermined fuel over-pressure

condition. Because of the use of manual monitoring and manual shut-off of fuel flow, operation of these refueling systems also can result in overfilling of the receiving aircraft fuel tanks and subsequent relief valve discharge of fuel.

A typical aircraft aerial refueling system includes a fuel tank positioned in at least an aircraft wing to store fuel. At least two fuel pumps operate to transfer the fuel from the tank to a remotely located refueling connection. At least one electrically controlled valve provides each of an open position permitting fuel flow and a closed position isolating fuel flow between the tank and the refueling connection. A computer system automatically varies operation of any quantity of the fuel pumps and controls the electrically controlled valve between the open and closed positions during fuel transfer to the refueling connection. The aerial refueling systems of the prior art are complex in design and in operation. The multiple panels and excess of wiring conduits of these designs occupy a great amount of space and also add to the payload which could otherwise be used to carry additional fuel. Other disadvantages include the need for multiple operators and the reduced amount of space to provide maintenance and upgrades to the system.

Summary

The present disclosure in one aspect provides a transport refueling system with improved command and control features. The improved features include a distributed control system utilizing bi-directional fiber optics to connect a control computer to various controls, including valves, pumps, and lights. The distributed control system includes a plurality of cameras for observing the position of the boom, the drogues, and the receiving aircraft. A touch screen allows the operator to view signals from the various cameras and simultaneously monitor other systems and controls. By using bi-directional fiber optics, the weight of the control system is decreased from prior art designs. Further, the present disclosure allows a single operator to complete the refueling procedure.

In another aspect the present disclosure provides a control system for a refueling system on a refueling vessel. The refueling system has a computer system, a plurality of fuel tanks containing a fuel, one or more fuel pumps, a plurality of motor operated valves, a plurality of sensors, and at least one refueling connection. The control system comprises a centralized control station having at least one touch screen whereby an operator can monitor and control the aerial refueling system. The centralized control station is connected using a fiber optic transmission system to the computer system, the fuel pumps, the motor operated valves, and the sensors.

In yet another aspect of the present disclosure there is provided an refueling system for a refueling vessel, comprising: at least one fuel tank operable to store a volume of fuel; a refueling connection remotely located from the at least one fuel tank; at least two fuel pumps operable to transfer fuel from the at least one fuel tank to the remotely located refueling connection; at least one remotely controlled valve; a computer system operable to automatically vary operation of any quantity of the fuel pumps and control the remotely controlled valve between one of the open and closed positions during transfer of the fuel to the refueling connection; a camera system; and a centralized control station having a touch screen; wherein the centralized control station is connected to the camera system and to the computer system using bi-directional fiber optic lines.

In still another aspect of the present disclosure there is provided a method for operating vessel refueling system, the refueling system having a computer system, at least one fuel tank containing a fuel, a plurality of fuel pumps, a plurality of motor operated valves, a plurality of sensors, at least one refueling connection, and a centralized control station having at least one touch screen. The method comprises using the centralized control station to monitor the refueling connection, the sensors, and a receiving vessel, and to initiate a flow of the fuel to the at least one of the refueling connections using at least one of the pumps.

The features, functions and advantages that have been discussed can be achieved independently in various embodiments of the present disclosure or may be combined in yet other embodiments further details of which can be seen with reference to the following description and drawings, wherein like numerals depict like parts, and wherein Description of the Drawings

Fig, 1 is a schematic of an aerial refueling system in accordance with the prior art;

Figs. 2 and 3 are drawings of a refueling aircraft in accordance with the prior art;

Figs. 4A and 4B are side and top views, respectively, showing the field of view of a second camera system in accordance with the prior art; Fig. 5 is a drawing of a Remote Air Refueling Operator (RARO) station in accordance with one embodiment of the present disclosure;

Fig. 6 is a block diagram showing the operation of a command and control interface in accordance with one embodiment of the present disclosure;

Figs. 7 A and 7B are drawings of the operator display showing the views of the first and second camera systems, respectively;

Figs. 8 A through 8D are drawings of various screen shots of the operator display; and

Fig. 9 is a drawing of a head mounted display in accordance with one embodiment of the present disclosure.

Detailed Description In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof, and in which is shown, by way of illustration, various embodiments of the present disclosure. It is understood that other embodiments may be utilized and changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present disclosure.

The illustrated embodiment comprises an aerial refueling system having a distributed control system (DCS). An aerial refueling system is generally comprised of a plurality of fuel

tanks, sensors, electrically controlled valves, pumps, and lights, a length of piping, a boom, at least one drogue, electric controls, and an operator station.

The DCS links the electrically controlled valves, pumps, sensors, and lights to a control system contained at the operator station. The DCS further comprises at least one camera providing images of the receiving aircraft. The images from the cameras may be viewed on a touch screen that allows the operator to simultaneously view the receiving aircraft while monitoring the fuel system and operating the controls. The camera and the touch screen are connected using fiber optics. The fiber optics minimize the weight of the system while enhancing the signals from the various input points. Alternatively, the sensors and other instrumentation controls are also connected to the distributed control system using bi-directional fiber optics.

The instant disclosure will be better understood by first considering the prior art. Referring to Fig. 1, which derives from U.S. Published Patent Application No. 2006/0278761, an aerial refueling system 10 is contained on an aircraft 12, having a fuselage 14 and port and starboard wings 16, 18. The aerial refueling system is generally comprised of a center fuel tank 26; port and starboard wing tanks 34,36; port and starboard refueling pods 42,44 with wing drogues; a boom 38 with a central drogue; optional forward and rear auxiliary fuel tanks 24,30, separated from the center fuel tank by a front and rear spars 28,32; a receptacle 20; a manifold 22; a hose assembly 40; pumps 21; valves 35; and sensors 25. A computer system 46 automatically controls the selection and operation of any number of aerial refueling pumps during fuel transfer, eliminating the need to manually monitor fuel flow and pressure and manually adjust the number of operating pumps. Electrically operated valves 35 are also provided which are automatically controlled by the computer system, for automatically isolating or opening one or more flow paths. The ability to manually control the loading of fuel or

moving fuel between tanks using the pumps is also an advantageous feature of the air refueling system. Fuel can be directed to/from any tank individually or simultaneously.

Referring also to Figs. 2, 3, 4A, and 4B, a typical aerial refueling system also includes a Remote Vision System (RVS) comprised of two camera systems: a Boom Aerial Refueling Camera System (BARCS) and a Situational Awareness Camera System (SACS). Fig. 2 shows the location of BARCS cameras 120 and SACS cameras 130. The RVS further includes a Video Processing System (VPS), a Head Mounted Display (HMD), and a pilots mission display (all not shown).

The BARCS is a two camera, hyperstereo system designed to provide a stereoscopic view of the entire boom aerial refueling envelope for both day and night aerial refueling operations. The cameras are preferably spaced about 19 inches apart from one another. The BARCS is installed inside a fairing on the lower aft fuselage. Sighting doors protect the lens when not in use. Cabin air may be circulated to provide ventilation and cooling. As shown in Fig. 3, each BARCS camera has a 40° horizontal and vertical field of view. The visible image area is limited to a 30° field of view called Region of Interest 160. The Region of Interest is established during receiver aircraft qualification. It is automatically recalled for each receiver aircraft type and is not modifiable by the operator.

A Situational Awareness Camera System (SACS) provides the flight crew with a lateral and aft view of approaching receiver aircraft and drogues at any hose extension length. Typically, three SACS video cameras (left, center, right) are installed inside a fairing on the lower aft fuselage and have overlapping panoramic fields of view. The fairing is ventilated to prevent fogging. In level flight, the left and right SACS provide a vertical field of view from 14° above to 34° below the horizon and the aft SACS provides a vertical field of view (shown in Fig. 4A) from 11° above to 37° below the horizon. As shown in Fig. 4B, the cameras provide continuous coverage in azimuth at a minimum distance of 100 feet from the cameras. Horizontal

coverage is 66° per camera to cover hose exit to hose exit. Video images from the SACS are displayed on a Refueling Operator Control and Display Unit (AROCDU), HMD and pilots mission display. The SACS is capable of using digital pan and zoom on the AROCDU. The aft display presents a full color onscreen graphical overlay of refueling data. These prior art systems were hard wired which added significant weight, cost and complexity. Also, such hard wired prior art systems were not easy to change as updated components became available.

The present disclosure provides a DCS using bi-directional fiber optics to interface with the computer system and multiple integrated control units located throughout the aircraft. The DCS system facilitates sensing and control of aerial refueling / mission equipment and accommodates aerial refueling equipment power distribution electrical load shedding. The DCS interfaces with pumps, valves, flow sensors, pressure sensors, leak detectors, engine indication and crew alerting system, a Remote Viewing System (RVS), drogue units, aerial refueling boom, and a Remote Aerial Refueling Operator (RARO) station. A Video Processing System (VPS) receives video imagery through a fiber optic link and operates in conjunction with camera controls on the AROCDU.

Referring to Fig. 5, the RARO station 100 is the central location for controlling and monitoring aerial refueling systems. The RARO station includes an Aerial Refueling Operator Control and Display Unit (AROCDU) 102, boom control stick 106, and manual control panels 104.

The Remote Viewing System (RVS) is configured to allow the operator to observe receiver aircraft engaged in boom or drogue refueling operations. The RVS is integral to the performance of aerial refueling procedures and is necessary for the operator to fly the boom to receiver aircraft.

The AROCDU is the primary device for air refueling system display (status, video and graphics) and control. The AROCDU is composed of a flat panel, color display with touch screen input and an integrated electronics unit. The AROCDU provides graphical displays of the refueling subsystems status and video displays from the camera systems and other data sources. The touch panel overlay and the display function buttons are the operator's primary input interfaces to configure and control the air refueling system. The touch screen will respond to a gloved hand, a bare hand, or a stylus. The AROCDU screens are defined by a system that uses page and window select buttons, or "soft keys", and four quadrant display windows, or zones, on the AROCDU screen. Pages are selected with buttons in the vertical area (right bezel) on the right of the screen.

Windows are selected with buttons in the vertical area (left bezel) on the left side of the screen. The AROCDU displays default pages and windows upon initial selection of the select buttons. Upon subsequent selection, the AROCDU displays the last selected windows within a page.

Fig. 6 is a flowchart illustrating a page navigation scheme for AROCDU in an exemplary embodiment. This scheme allows a single operator to successfully monitor and control all aerial refueling systems during all stages of flight. From the startup screen 201 (also shown as Fig. 8A), the operator can access preflight screen 211 for executing preflight commands using preflight key 210. The preflight screen also allows access to aerial refueling setup screen 225. Also from startup screen 201, the operator can use flight key 220 to access in-flight refueling control screens, including boom control screen 221 (see Fig. 8D), wing drogue screen 222, and center drogue screen 223 (see Fig. 8C). Any one of these screens allow access to preflight screen 211, aerial refueling screen 225, situational awareness screen 224 (see Fig. 8B), or each other. Startup screen 201 also allows the operator to access maintenance screen 232, fault log 231 , or post flight screen 230.

When the computer detects a condition requiring operator notification, the Warning, Caution, and/or Advisory Overlays display in a floating window. During boom refueling, the windows display in the bottom of the viewable area of the AROCDU allow the operator to view them while wearing the Head Mounted Display (HMD) 162 (shown in Fig. 9). During drogue refueling, the windows display in the upper quadrants of the AROCDU screen. Figs. 8A-8D show a few of the available AROCDU pages. Fig. 8 A is a default page. Fig. 8B is a situational awareness page, showing a situational awareness window 150 and several RVS displays 152. Fig. 8C shows a center drogue page wherein the drogue and drogue lights are controlled on windows 154 and 155. Fig. 8D is a boom management page, wherein the boom is controlled using windows 156 and 157. Note that the operator is able to simultaneously view situational awareness window 150, RVS displays 152 while monitoring systems and providing control inputs.

The Remote Viewing System (RVS) video is transmitted digitally via fiber optic lines to the RARO station for video processing and display 160 on the HMD 162 (shown in Fig. 9). The display module provides BARCS, high resolution, stereoscopic video imagery to the ARO and instructor. Referring to Figs. 7 A and 7B, the HMD is also capable of displaying imagery from any of the five video cameras (BARCS and SACS) in mono view. Onscreen graphical overlay of refueling data is viewed in full color. The operator while wearing the Head Mounted Display (HMD) may see the lower portion of the AROCDU. The HMD is compatible with audio headsets and oxygen masks.

It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present device and process are merely possible examples of implementations and merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the present disclosure. Many different embodiments of the aerial refueling system command and control described herein may be designed and/or fabricated without departing from the spirit and scope of the foregoing disclosure. For instance, the camera

systems may be equipped with infrared equipment for refueling in low light conditions. The distributed command and control system also may be used on spacecraft, and on ships. All these and other such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of this disclosure and protected by the following claims. Therefore the scope of the disclosure is not intended to be limited except as indicated in the appended claims.