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Title:
A HOIST CABLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR A REFUELING BOOM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/093886
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method and apparatus may be present for managing a hoist cable (340) for a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301). A position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301) may be identified. A desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) may be identified using the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) in response to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316). A command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) may be generated.

Inventors:
SPEER THOMAS EDWARD (US)
HATCHER JUSTIN C (US)
MUSGRAVE JEFFREY L (US)
Application Number:
US2010/022633
Publication Date:
August 04, 2011
Filing Date:
January 29, 2010
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
BOEING CO (US)
SPEER THOMAS EDWARD (US)
HATCHER JUSTIN C (US)
MUSGRAVE JEFFREY L (US)
International Classes:
B64D39/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2010059155A12010-05-27
Foreign References:
US20030218097A12003-11-27
US6288380B12001-09-11
US6966525B12005-11-22
GB724092A1955-02-16
US20090292406A12009-11-26
Other References:
None
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HALPERIN, Brett, L et al. (PO Box 2515MC 110-SD5, Seal Beach California, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

What is claimed is:

1. A method for managing a hoist cable (340) for a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301), the method comprising:

identifying (900) a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft

(301);

responsive to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), identifying (902) a desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) using the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and

generating (904) a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of identifying (900) the desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using a distance (367) between a location

(350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316).

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the step of identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and an additional length (368).

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the attachment point (348) is a first attachment point (348) and wherein the step of identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location

(350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) using the following:

distance = D * sqrt( 2-2*cos(elev)!i:cos(azim)!i:cos(phi)-2!i:sin(phi)!i:sin(elev)), wherein D is a measured distance (371) between a second attachment point (379) of the refueling boom (316) to the fuselage (319) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316); sqrt is a square root; elev is an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316); azim is an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316); and phi is a constant elevation angle (338) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344).

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the desired length (366) of the hoist cable (340) is selected from a group comprising a length of the hoist cable (340) between a location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and the length of the hoist cable (340) between where the hoist cable (340) is fed from a storage (341) inside the fuselage (319) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316).

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of generating (904) the command (370) to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) comprises:

filtering (1006) the desired length (366) identified to reduce noise in the command

(370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the step of filtering (1006) the desired length (366) identified to reduce the noise in the command (370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) comprises:

filtering the desired length (366) identified to reduce the noise in the command (370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) using a second order low pass filter (810).

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of identifying (900) the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301) comprises:

identifying at least one of an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and a constant elevation angle (338), wherein the constant elevation angle (338) is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344).

9. A method for managing a hoist cable (340) for a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301), the method comprising: receiving position information from a number of sensors (322) in which the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333);

identifying at least one of an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and a constant elevation angle (338) in which the constant elevation angle (338) is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344) to identify a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301);

responsive to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), identifying a desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) using the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), a distance (367) between a location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and a first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316), and an additional length (368) using the following:

distance = D * sqrt( 2-2*cos(elev)!i:cos(azim)!i:cos(phi)-2!i:sin(phi)!i:sin(elev)), in which D is a measured distance (371) between a second attachment point (379) of the refueling boom (316) to the fuselage (319) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316); sqrt is a square root; elev is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), azim is the azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and phi is the constant elevation angle (338) for the refueling boom (316) in the stowed position (344) and in which the desired length (366) of the hoist cable (340) is selected from a group comprising a length of the hoist cable (340) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and the length of the hoist cable (340) between where the hoist cable (340) is fed from a storage (341) inside the fuselage (319) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316);

filtering the desired length (366) identified to reduce noise in a command (370) generated to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) using a second order low pass filter (810); and

generating the command (370) to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

10. An apparatus comprising:

a storage device (216);

program code (218) stored on the storage device (216); and a processor unit (204) connected to the storage device (216) and configured to run the program code (218) to identify a position (332) of a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301); identify a desired length (366) for a hoist cable (340) in response to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and generate a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

11. The apparatus of claim 10 further comprising:

a number of sensors (322) configured to sense the position (332) of the refueling boom.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the number of sensors (322) is configured to sense at least one of an elevation angle (334), an azimuth angle (336), a constant elevation angle

(338), and a boom length (330) for the refueling boom.

13. The apparatus of claim 10 further comprising:

a cable storage device (341) configured to store the hoist cable (340); and a hoist unit (342) configured to deploy and retract the hoist cable (340) in the cable storage device (341).

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333).

15. An aircraft (301) comprising :

a refueling system (116) comprising a refueling boom (316);

a storage device (216);

program code (218) stored on the storage device (216) in which the program code (218) is for control laws (357);

a processor unit (204) connected to the storage device (216) and configured to run the program code (218) to identify a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301); identify a desired length (366) for a hoist cable (340) in response to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and generate a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366);

a number of sensors (322) configured to sense the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) in which the number of sensors (322) is configured to sense at least one of an elevation angle (334), an azimuth angle (336), and a boom length (330) for the refueling boom (316) and in which the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333);

a cable storage device (341) configured to store the hoist cable (340); and

an actuator unit (345) configured to deploy and retract the hoist cable (340) in the cable storage device (341) in which the actuator unit (345) comprises at least one of an electromechanical actuator (347) and a hydraulic actuator (372).

Description:
A HOIST CABLE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR A REFUELING BOOM

BACKGROUND INFORMATION Field:

The present disclosure relates generally to aircraft and, in particular, to refueling aircraft. Still more particularly, the present disclosure relates to a method and apparatus for managing a cable for a refueling boom of a refueling aircraft. Background:

Aerial refueling may be a process of transferring fuel from one aircraft to another aircraft. The aircraft from which the fuel originates may be referred to as a tanker aircraft. The aircraft receiving the fuel may be referred to as a receiver aircraft. This type of process may be applied to various types of aircraft as receiver and/or tanker including, for example, without limitation, fixed wing aircraft, rotor wing aircraft, and/or other suitable types of aircraft.

One common approach for refueling may involve a boom and receptacle system. With a boom, a fixed tube and a telescoping tube may be present on the tanker aircraft. These tubes may also be referred to as a refueling boom or a telescoping refueling boom.

The refueling boom may be attached to the rear of the tanker aircraft and may move along three axes relative to the tanker. The refueling boom also may be a flexible refueling boom. An operator may extend and/or position the refueling boom for insertion into a receptacle on the receiving aircraft to transfer fuel to the receiving aircraft.

Currently, refueling booms used for tanker aircraft may need to be raised and/or lowered while in flight or on the ground. For example, without limitation, when a tanker aircraft is on the ground, a refueling boom may be lowered from a stowed position to a deployed position for maintenance operations. In another example, a refueling boom may be raised from a deployed position to a stowed position while the tanker aircraft is in flight. The raising and/or lowering of a refueling boom may be performed using a hoist cable system.

With currently used hoist cable systems, a hoist cable may be attached to a refueling boom. The hoist cable may be stored in the fuselage of the tanker aircraft using a storage device. This storage may be, for example, without limitation, a spool, a reel, a drum, and/or some other suitable type of storage system. The hoist cable may be deployed from and/or retracted into the storage device using a hoist unit, such as a hydraulic hoist actuator or pulley system. When in flight, the length of the hoist cable may need to be managed. The length may be set such that the hoist cable does not interfere with the refueling boom or the aircraft. For example, without limitation, if the hoist cable is too long, the hoist cable may move and may hit the refueling boom and/or fuselage of the tanker aircraft during flight. Further, during flight, the refueling boom may experience movement at certain airspeeds or with certain flight conditions. If the hoist cable is too short, the hoist cable may restrict this movement. This restriction may cause undesired effects to the components of the refueling boom and/or fuselage.

Therefore, it would be desirable to have a method and apparatus that may overcome one or more of the issues described above, as well as other possible issues.

SUMMARY

In one advantageous embodiment, a method may be present for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom for an aircraft. A position of the refueling boom for the aircraft may be identified. A desired length for the hoist cable may be identified using the position of the refueling boom in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom. A command to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length may be generated.

In another advantageous embodiment, a method may be present for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom for an aircraft. Position information may be received from a number of sensors in which the number of sensors may comprise at least one of a position sensor system, an inertial measurement unit, a force sensor, and an air data system. At least one of an elevation angle for the refueling boom, an azimuth angle for the refueling boom, and a constant elevation angle may be identified to identify a position of the refueling boom for the aircraft. The constant elevation angle may be an elevation angle for the refueling boom in a stowed position. A desired length for the hoist cable may be identified in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom using the position of the refueling boom, a distance between a location where the hoist cable exits a fuselage of the aircraft and a first attachment point for the hoist cable on the refueling boom, and an additional length using the following:

distance = D * sqrt( 2-2*cos(elev) !i: cos(azim) !i: cos(phi)-2 !i: sin(phi) !i: sin(elev)),

in which D may be a measured distance between the second attachment point of the refueling boom to the fuselage and the first attachment point for the hoist cable on the refueling boom; sqrt may be a square root; elev may be an elevation angle for the refueling boom; azim may be an azimuth angle for the refueling boom; and phi may be a constant elevation angle for the refueling boom in a stowed position. The desired length of the hoist cable may be selected from a group comprising a length of the hoist cable between the location where the hoist cable exits the fuselage of the aircraft and the attachment point for the hoist cable on the refueling boom, and a length of the hoist cable between where the hoist cable is fed from a storage inside the fuselage and the attachment point for the hoist cable on the refueling boom. The desired length identified to reduce noise in a command generated to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length may be filtered using a second order low pass filter. The command to change the current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length may be generated.

In yet another advantageous embodiment, an apparatus may comprise a storage device, program code stored on the storage device, and a processor unit connected to the storage device. The processor unit may be configured to run the program code to identify a position of a refueling boom for an aircraft; identify a desired length for a hoist cable in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom; and generate a command to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length.

In still yet another advantageous embodiment, an aircraft may comprise a refueling system comprising a refueling boom, a storage device, program code stored on the storage device in which the program code is for control laws, a processor unit connected to the storage device, a number of sensors, a cable storage device, and an actuator unit. The processor unit may be configured to run the program code to identify a position of a refueling boom for an aircraft; identify a desired length for a hoist cable in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom; and generate a command to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length. The number of sensors may be configured to sense the position of the refueling boom. The number of sensors may be configured to sense at least one of an elevation angle, an azimuth angle, and a boom length for the refueling boom. The number of sensors may comprise at least one of a position sensor system, an inertial measurement unit, a force sensor, and an air data system. The cable storage device may be configured to store the hoist cable. The actuator unit may be configured to deploy and retract the hoist cable in the cable storage device. The actuator unit may comprise at least one of an electromechanical actuator and a hydraulic actuator.

1. A method for managing a hoist cable (340) for a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301), the method comprising:

identifying (900) a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft

(301); responsive to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), identifying (902) a desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) using the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and

generating (904) a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of identifying (900) the desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using a distance (367) between a location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316).

3. The method of claim 2, wherein the step of identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location

(350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and an additional length (368).

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the attachment point (348) is a first attachment point (348) and wherein the step of identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) comprises:

identifying the desired length (366) using the distance (367) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) using the following: distance = D * sqrt( 2-2*cos(elev) !i: cos(azim) !i: cos(phi)-2 !i: sin(phi) !i: sin(elev)),

wherein D is a measured distance (371) between a second attachment point (379) of the refueling boom (316) to the fuselage (319) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316); sqrt is a square root; elev is an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316); azim is an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316); and phi is a constant elevation angle (338) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344).

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the desired length (366) of the hoist cable (340) is selected from a group comprising a length of the hoist cable (340) between a location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and the length of the hoist cable (340) between where the hoist cable (340) is fed from a storage (341) inside the fuselage (319) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316).

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of generating (904) the command (370) to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) comprises:

filtering (1006) the desired length (366) identified to reduce noise in the command (370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

7. The method of claim 6, wherein the step of filtering (1006) the desired length (366) identified to reduce the noise in the command (370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) comprises:

filtering the desired length (366) identified to reduce the noise in the command (370) generated to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) using a second order low pass filter (810).

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of identifying (900) the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301) comprises:

identifying at least one of an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and a constant elevation angle (338), wherein the constant elevation angle (338) is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344).

9. The method of claim 1, wherein the step of identifying (900) the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301) comprises:

receiving position information from a number of sensors (322).

10. The method of claim 9, wherein the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333).

11. The method of claim 1, wherein the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) is an angular position (369).

12. A method for managing a hoist cable (340) for a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301), the method comprising: receiving position information from a number of sensors (322) in which the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333);

identifying at least one of an elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), an azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and a constant elevation angle (338) in which the constant elevation angle (338) is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316) in a stowed position (344) to identify a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for the aircraft (301);

responsive to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), identifying a desired length (366) for the hoist cable (340) using the position (332) of the refueling boom (316), a distance (367) between a location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits a fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and a first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316), and an additional length (368) using the following:

distance = D * sqrt( 2-2*cos(elev) !i: cos(azim) !i: cos(phi)-2 !i: sin(phi) !i: sin(elev)),

in which D is a measured distance (371) between a second attachment point (379) of the refueling boom (316) to the fuselage (319) and the first attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316); sqrt is a square root; elev is the elevation angle (334) for the refueling boom (316), azim is the azimuth angle (336) for the refueling boom (316), and phi is the constant elevation angle (338) for the refueling boom (316) in the stowed position (344) and in which the desired length (366) of the hoist cable (340) is selected from a group comprising a length of the hoist cable (340) between the location (350) where the hoist cable (340) exits the fuselage (319) of the aircraft (301) and an attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316) and the length of the hoist cable (340) between where the hoist cable (340) is fed from a storage (341) inside the fuselage (319) and the attachment point (348) for the hoist cable (340) on the refueling boom (316);

filtering the desired length (366) identified to reduce noise in a command (370) generated to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366) using a second order low pass filter (810); and

generating the command (370) to change the current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

13. An apparatus comprising :

a storage device (216);

program code (218) stored on the storage device (216); and a processor unit (204) connected to the storage device (216) and configured to run the program code (218) to identify a position (332) of a refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301); identify a desired length (366) for a hoist cable (340) in response to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and generate a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366).

14. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising:

a number of sensors (322) configured to sense the position (332) of the refueling boom.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the number of sensors (322) is configured to sense at least one of an elevation angle (334), an azimuth angle (336), a constant elevation angle

(338), and a boom length (330) for the refueling boom.

16. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333).

17. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the program code (218) is for control laws

(357).

18. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising:

the aircraft (301); and

the refueling system (116) comprising the refueling boom (316).

19. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising:

a cable storage device (341) configured to store the hoist cable (340); and a hoist unit (342) configured to deploy and retract the hoist cable (340) in the cable storage device (341).

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the hoist unit (342) is an actuator unit (345). 21. The apparatus of claim 20, wherein the actuator unit (345) comprises at least one of an electromechanical actuator (347) and a hydraulic actuator (372).

22. An aircraft (301) comprising:

a refueling system (116) comprising a refueling boom (316);

a storage device (216);

program code (218) stored on the storage device (216) in which the program code (218) is for control laws (357);

a processor unit (204) connected to the storage device (216) and configured to run the program code (218) to identify a position (332) of the refueling boom (316) for an aircraft (301); identify a desired length (366) for a hoist cable (340) in response to identifying the position (332) of the refueling boom (316); and generate a command (370) to change a current length (352) of the hoist cable (340) to substantially the desired length (366);

a number of sensors (322) configured to sense the position (332) of the refueling boom (316) in which the number of sensors (322) is configured to sense at least one of an elevation angle (334), an azimuth angle (336), and a boom length (330) for the refueling boom (316) and in which the number of sensors (322) comprises at least one of a position sensor system (337), an inertial measurement unit (335), a force sensor (339), and an air data system (333);

a cable storage device (341) configured to store the hoist cable (340); and

an actuator unit (345) configured to deploy and retract the hoist cable (340) in the cable storage device (341) in which the actuator unit (345) comprises at least one of an electromechanical actuator (347) and a hydraulic actuator (372).

The features, functions, and advantages can be achieved independently in various embodiments of the present disclosure or may be combined in yet other embodiments in which further details can be seen with reference to the following description and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The novel features believed characteristic of the advantageous embodiments are set forth in the appended claims. The advantageous embodiments, however, as well as a preferred mode of use, further objectives, and advantages thereof, will best be understood by reference to the following detailed description of an advantageous embodiment of the present disclosure when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein:

Figure 1 is an illustration of an aircraft in which an advantageous embodiment may be implemented;

Figure 2 is an illustration of a data processing system in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 3 is an illustration of a refueling environment in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 4 is an illustration of one implementation for a refueling environment in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 5 is a more detailed illustration of a refueling boom in accordance with an advantageous embodiment; Figure 6 is an illustration of a hoist cable system in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 7 is an illustration of a drum and an actuator unit in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 8 is an illustration of a control law for managing a length of a hoist cable in accordance with an advantageous embodiment;

Figure 9 is an illustration of a flowchart of a process for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom in accordance with an advantageous embodiment; and

Figure 10 is an illustration of a flowchart of a process for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom in accordance with an advantageous embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Referring more particularly to the drawings, embodiments of the disclosure may be described in the context of an aircraft, such as, for example, aircraft 100 as shown in Figure 1.

Turning now to Figure 1, an illustration of an aircraft is depicted in which an advantageous embodiment may be implemented. In this example, aircraft 100 in Figure 1 may include airframe 102 with a plurality of systems 104 and interior 106. Examples of systems 104 may include one or more of propulsion system 108, electrical system 110, hydraulic system 112, environmental system 114, and refueling system 116. Any number of other systems may be included. Different advantageous embodiments may be implemented within refueling system 116 in these depicted examples.

Turning now to Figure 2, an illustration of a data processing system is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this illustrative example, data processing system 200 includes communications fabric 202, which provides communications between processor unit 204, memory 206, persistent storage 208, communications unit 210, input/output (I/O) unit 212, and display 214. Data processing system 200 may be used to implement or run program code for refueling system 116 in Figure 1. Data processing system 200 may be part of refueling system 116 in Figure 1. For example, without limitation, data processing system 200 may be used to implement processes to manage a length of a hoist cable within refueling system 116 in Figure 1.

Processor unit 204 serves to execute instructions for software that may be loaded into memory 206. Processor unit 204 may be a set of one or more processors or may be a multiprocessor core, depending on the particular implementation. Further, processor unit 204 may be implemented using one or more heterogeneous processor systems in which a main processor is present with secondary processors on a single chip. As another illustrative example, processor unit 204 may be a symmetric multi-processor system containing multiple processors of the same type.

Memory 206 and persistent storage 208 may be examples of storage devices 216. A storage device is any piece of hardware that is capable of storing information, such as, for example, without limitation, data, program code in functional form, and/or other suitable information either on a temporary basis and/or a permanent basis. Memory 206, in these examples, may be, for example, a random access memory or any other suitable volatile or nonvolatile storage device. Persistent storage 208 may take various forms, depending on the particular implementation. For example, persistent storage 208 may contain one or more components or devices. For example, persistent storage 208 may be a hard drive, a flash memory, a rewritable optical disk, a rewritable magnetic tape, or some combination of the above. The media used by persistent storage 208 may be removable. For example, a removable hard drive may be used for persistent storage 208.

Communications unit 210, in these examples, may provide for communication with other data processing systems or devices. In these examples, communications unit 210 may be a network interface card. Communications unit 210 may provide communications through the use of either or both physical and wireless communications links.

Input/output unit 212 may allow for the input and output of data with other devices that may be connected to data processing system 200. For example, input/output unit 212 may provide a connection for user input through a keyboard, a mouse, and/or some other suitable input device. Further, input/output unit 212 may send output to a printer. Display 214 may provide a mechanism to display information to a user.

Instructions for the operating system, applications, and/or programs may be located in storage devices 216, which may be in communication with processor unit 204 through communications fabric 202. In these illustrative examples, the instructions may be in a functional form on persistent storage 208. These instructions may be loaded into memory 206 for execution by processor unit 204. The processes of the different embodiments may be performed by processor unit 204 using computer implemented instructions, which may be located in a memory, such as memory 206.

These instructions may be referred to as program code, computer usable program code, or computer readable program code that may be read and executed by a processor in processor unit 204. The program code, in the different embodiments, may be embodied on different physical or computer readable storage media, such as memory 206 or persistent storage 208.

Program code 218 may be located in a functional form on computer readable media 220 that may be selectively removable and may be loaded onto or transferred to data processing system 200 for execution by processor unit 204. Program code 218 and computer readable media 220 form computer program product 222. In one example, computer readable media 220 may be computer readable storage media 224 or computer readable signal media 226. Computer readable storage media 224 may include, for example, an optical or magnetic disk that is inserted or placed into a drive or other device that is part of persistent storage 208 for transfer onto a storage device, such as a hard drive, that is part of persistent storage 208. Computer readable storage media 224 also may take the form of a persistent storage, such as a hard drive, a thumb drive, or a flash memory that is connected to data processing system 200. In some instances, computer readable storage media 224 may not be removable from data processing system 200.

Alternatively, program code 218 may be transferred to data processing system 200 using computer readable signal media 226. Computer readable signal media 226 may be, for example, a propagated data signal containing program code 218. For example, computer readable signal media 226 may be an electromagnetic signal, an optical signal, and/or any other suitable type of signal. These signals may be transmitted over communications links, such as wireless communications links, an optical fiber cable, a coaxial cable, a wire, and/or any other suitable type of communications link. In other words, the communications link and/or the connection may be physical or wireless in the illustrative examples.

In some advantageous embodiments, program code 218 may be downloaded over a network to persistent storage 208 from another device or data processing system through computer readable signal media 226 for use within data processing system 200. For instance, program code stored in a computer readable storage media in a server data processing system may be downloaded over a network from the server to data processing system 200. The data processing system providing program code 218 may be a server computer, a client computer, or some other device capable of storing and transmitting program code 218.

The different components illustrated for data processing system 200 are not meant to provide architectural limitations to the manner in which different embodiments may be implemented. The different advantageous embodiments may be implemented in a data processing system including components in addition to or in place of those illustrated for data processing system 200. Other components shown in Figure 2 may be varied from the illustrative examples shown. The different embodiments may be implemented using any hardware device or system capable of executing program code. As one example, data processing system 200 may include organic components integrated with inorganic components and/or may be comprised entirely of organic components excluding a human being. For example, a storage device may be comprised of an organic semiconductor.

As another example, a storage device in data processing system 200 is any hardware apparatus that may store data. Memory 206, persistent storage 208, and computer readable media 220 may be examples of storage devices in a tangible form.

In another example, a bus system may be used to implement communications fabric 202 and may be comprised of one or more buses, such as a system bus or an input/output bus. Of course, the bus system may be implemented using any suitable type of architecture that provides for a transfer of data between different components or devices attached to the bus system. Additionally, a communications unit may include one or more devices used to transmit and receive data, such as a modem or a network adapter. Further, a memory may be, for example, memory 206 or a cache such as found in an interface and memory controller hub that may be present in communications fabric 202.

The different advantageous embodiments recognize and take into account a number of different considerations. For example, without limitation, the different advantageous embodiments recognize and take into account that the amount of movement that a refueling boom may have during flight may be based on the length of the hoist cable attached to the refueling boom. With currently used hoist cable systems, the length of the hoist cable may be managed based on the tension in the hoist. The different advantageous embodiments recognize and take into account that this type of management of the length of the hoist cable may use more hardware components, sensors, software, and/or other components than desired.

Further, the different advantageous embodiments recognize and take into account that the hoist cable may experience forces from the movement of air past the aircraft during flight. With systems that manage the length of the hoist cable based on tension, these forces may lead to varying lengths for the hoist cable at different airspeeds. For example, without limitation, the hoist cable may be longer than desired at higher airspeeds and shorter than desired at lower airspeeds.

When the length of the hoist cable is too long, the hoist cable may hit the fuselage of the aircraft and or the refueling boom during flight. When the length of the hoist cable is too short, the movement of the refueling boom during flight may be restricted. The different advantageous embodiments also recognize and take into account that these variances in length for the hoist cable during flight may not allow the hoist cable to follow the position of the refueling boom as desired.

Thus, the different advantageous embodiments provide a method and apparatus for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom for an aircraft. A position of the refueling boom for the aircraft may be identified. A desired length for the hoist cable may be identified using the position of the refueling boom in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom. Thereafter, a command may be generated to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length.

With reference now to Figure 3, an illustration of a refueling environment is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this example, refueling environment 300 may be implemented for tanker aircraft 301. Tanker aircraft 301 may be one example of aircraft 100 in Figure 1. Refueling environment 300 may also include receiving aircraft 303.

Tanker aircraft 301 may include operator refueling station 302, refueling boom unit 304, refueling control system 306, and/or other suitable components. In these illustrative examples, operator refueling station 302, refueling boom unit 304, and refueling control system 306 may be part of refueling system 116 in Figure 1. These different components may be implemented using one or more data processing systems, such as, for example, data processing system 200 in Figure 2.

Operator refueling station 302 may provide a location for operator 310 to control refueling boom unit 304. Operator refueling station 302 may send operator input 312 to refueling control system 306. In turn, refueling control system 306 may generate commands 314, which may be sent to refueling boom unit 304 to control refueling boom 316. For example, without limitation, commands 314 may be sent to refueling boom unit 304 to move refueling boom 316.

In these illustrative examples, refueling boom unit 304 may include refueling boom 316, actuator system 318, cable system 320, and number of sensors 322. Refueling boom 316 may be attached to fuselage 319 at second attachment point 379 on fuselage 319. As depicted, refueling boom 316 may have fixed tube 323, telescoping tube 324, nozzle 325, strain sleeve 326, and positioning system 327. Strain sleeve 326 may be attached to nozzle 325 in these examples. Nozzle 325 may be used to transfer fuel from tanker aircraft 301 to receptacle 351 of receiving aircraft 303. Telescoping tube 324 may move with respect to fixed tube 323 to provide extension 328 for telescoping tube 324 in refueling boom 316. Extension 328 for telescoping tube 324 may be controlled by actuator system 318 in these illustrative examples. Extension 328 of telescoping tube 324 may change. When extension 328 changes, boom length 330 of refueling boom 316 may change. Boom length 330 may change by changing extension 328 in a manner that may reduce boom length 330 or increase boom length 330. In these illustrative examples, boom length 330 may be the length of fixed tube 323 plus the length of telescoping tube 324, nozzle 325, and strain sleeve 326.

Positioning system 327 of refueling boom 316 may take the form of ruddevators 329 in these illustrative examples. In other advantageous embodiments, positioning system 327 may take the form of some other suitable type of force generator unit. Actuator system 318 may control ruddevators 329 in positioning system 327 to move refueling boom 316. Refueling boom 316 may be moved with respect to tanker aircraft 301 to which refueling boom unit 304 is attached. In particular, actuator system 318 may move refueling boom 316 to change position 332 of refueling boom 316. In these depicted examples, position 332 may be angular position 369.

In these illustrative examples, position 332 may be comprised of at least one of elevation angle 334, azimuth angle 336, and constant elevation angle 338. As depicted, elevation angle 334 may be measured from axis 373 through refueling boom 316 to horizontal plane 375 through second attachment point 379. Horizontal plane 375 may be a plane parallel to the horizontal plane of fuselage 319. Azimuth angle 336 may be measured from axis 373 through refueling boom 316 to vertical plane 380. Vertical plane 380 may be a plane normal to horizontal plane 375 of fuselage 319. Constant elevation angle 338 may be measured from horizontal plane 375 through second attachment point 379 to axis 373 through refueling boom 316 when refueling boom 316 is in stowed position 344.

In these examples, elevation angle 334, azimuth angle 336, and constant elevation angle 338 may be measured in radians. In other illustrative examples, elevation angle 334, azimuth angle 336, and constant elevation angle 338 may be measured in degrees. In these depicted examples, position 332, along with boom length 330, may be identified using number of sensors 322.

Number of sensors 322 may include, for example, without limitation, air data system 333, inertial measurement unit 335, position sensor system 337, force sensor 339, and/or other suitable sensors. Air data system 333 may be used to measure dynamic pressure 343 for tanker aircraft 301. Inertial measurement unit 335 may identify accelerations and rates in three axes for refueling boom 316. Force sensor 339 may be used to identify forces 381 on refueling boom 316.

Position sensor system 337 may be used to identify position 332. Further, position sensor system 337 also may be used to identify length 331 for extension 328 of refueling boom 316.

Position sensor system 337 may be implemented using position sensors in the form of, for example, without limitation, a potentiometer or some other suitable position sensor. Position sensor system 337 may be one or more position sensors.

In these illustrative examples, position 332 may be further controlled using cable system 320 for refueling boom unit 304. In these illustrative examples, cable system 320 may include, for example, without limitation, hoist cable 340, cable storage device 341, and hoist unit 342.

Hoist cable 340 may be used to raise and/or lower refueling boom 316 between stowed position

344 and deployed position 346 for refueling boom 316. Further, hoist cable 340 may provide support for refueling boom 316 in deployed position 346.

Hoist cable 340 may be stored in cable storage device 341 in fuselage 319 of tanker aircraft 301. In these depicted examples, cable storage device 341 may take the form of a spool, a reel, a drum, or some other suitable type of cable storage system.

Hoist unit 342 may be used to deploy hoist cable 340 from cable storage device 341 and/or retract hoist cable 340 into cable storage device 341. In this manner, hoist cable 340 may be used in moving refueling boom 316 between stowed position 344 and deployed position 346.

For example, without limitation, hoist cable 340 may be deployed from cable storage device 341 to lower refueling boom 316 and retracted into cable storage device 341 to raise refueling boom

316.

In these illustrative examples, hoist unit 342 may take the form of actuator unit 345. Actuator unit 345 may include electromechanical actuator 347 in these illustrative examples.

Actuator unit 345 may be configured such that hoist cable 340 may not be deployed from cable storage device 341 at undesired times.

In these illustrative examples, hoist cable 340 may be attached to refueling boom 316 at first attachment point 348. Further, hoist cable 340 may exit fuselage 319 of tanker aircraft 301 at location 350. Location 350 may be a location of hoist unit 342 in fuselage 319 in some illustrative examples. In these depicted examples, hoist cable 340 may have current length 352.

Current length 352 may be from location 350 to first attachment point 348 on refueling boom

316. In other advantageous embodiments, current length 352 may be from cable storage device 341 to first attachment point 348. Current length 352 for hoist cable 340 may be controlled using refueling control system 306.

In these illustrative examples, refueling control system 306 may have control computer 354. Control processes 356 may run on control computer 354. Control processes 356 may include control laws 357. Control laws 357 may be examples of processes that may run on control computer 354 to control refueling boom unit 304. Refueling control system 306 may send information back to operator refueling station 302 for display on display 355 in operator refueling station 302. Operator refueling station 302 also may include control stick 358 to generate operator commands 360. Operator commands 360 may be sent to refueling control system 306 for processing. Operator commands 360 may include a command to move refueling boom 316 to position 332.

In these depicted examples, control processes 356 may include processes for controlling cable system 320 of refueling boom 316. For example, without limitation, control processes 356 may include length identification process 362 and command generation process 364. Length identification process 362 may receive information from position sensor system 337. This information may be used to identify desired length 366 for current length 352 of hoist cable 340.

Desired length 366, in these examples, may be a length for hoist cable 340 from location 350 to first attachment point 348. In other illustrative examples, desired length 366 may be a length for hoist cable 340 from cable storage device 341 to first attachment point 348. Desired length 366 may be identified using position 332 and distance 367.

Distance 367 may be calculated as the distance between location 350, where hoist cable 340 exits fuselage 319, and first attachment point 348. Further, in these illustrative examples, distance 367 may be calculated using elevation angle 334, azimuth angle 336, constant elevation angle 338, and measured distance 371. Measured distance 371 may be the distance between first attachment point 348 and second attachment point 379. In these examples, measured distance 371 may also be the distance between second attachment point 379 and location 350.

Further, in some illustrative examples, desired length 366 may comprise a length for hoist cable 340 based on position 332, distance 367, and additional length 368. Additional length 368 may be an additional amount of hoist cable 340 that allows refueling boom 316 to have the capability to move during flight.

In these depicted examples, command generation process 364 may use desired length 366 to generate command 370 in commands 314. Command 370 may control hoist unit 342 such that hoist cable 340 is deployed, retracted, or a combination of the two to change current length

352. Current length 352 may be changed to provide desired length 366 for hoist cable 340.

The illustration of refueling environment 300 is not meant to imply physical or architectural limitations to the manner in which different refueling environments may be implemented. For example, other components in addition to or in place of the ones illustrated may be used. Also, in some advantageous embodiments, fewer components than those illustrated for refueling environment 300 may be used.

As one example, in some advantageous embodiments, operator refueling station 302 and refueling control system 306 may be integrated as a single component or system. In yet other advantageous embodiments, a number of additional refueling boom units may be deployed in addition to refueling boom unit 304.

In some advantageous embodiments, at least a portion of hoist unit 342 may be associated with cable storage device 341. In other words, at least a portion of actuator unit 345 may be attached to or part of cable storage device 341.

In other advantageous embodiments, actuator unit 345 may include hydraulic actuator

372 in the place of or in addition to electromechanical actuator 347. In still other advantageous embodiments, cable system 320 may include number of pulley systems 374 for use in deploying and retracting hoist cable 340. In some advantageous embodiments, number of pulley systems

374 may be used in the place of cable storage device 341 for storing hoist cable 340. In these advantageous embodiments, actuator unit 345 may be operated to deploy and retract hoist cable

340 from and to number of pulley systems 374.

With reference now to Figure 4, an illustration of one implementation for a refueling environment is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this example, refueling environment 400 is an example of one implementation for refueling environment 300 in Figure 3.

In this illustrative example, tanker aircraft 402 is shown in an exposed view. Tanker aircraft 402 may have fuselage 404, wing 406, wing 408, tail 410, engine 412, and engine 414. In this example, tanker aircraft 402 may contain operator refueling station 416, auxiliary fuel tank 418, auxiliary fuel tank 420, refueling boom 422, and hoist cable system 423. In the different advantageous embodiments, an operator at operator refueling station 416 may control refueling boom 422 to perform refueling operations.

Refueling control system 424 may generate commands to control refueling boom 422 in response to operator commands generated by an operator at operator refueling station 416. The different operations that refueling control system 424 may command include, for example, without limitation, movement of refueling boom 422.

Hoist cable system 423 may be an example of one implementation for cable system 320 in Figure 3. As depicted, hoist cable system 423 may include hoist cable 426, storage device 428, and hoist unit 430. Hoist cable 426 may be attached to refueling boom 422 at first attachment point 432. Refueling boom 422 may be attached to fuselage 404 at second attachment point 434.

In this illustrative example, a portion of hoist unit 430 may be associated with storage device 428. Refueling control system 424 may control hoist cable 426 associated with refueling boom 422. In particular, refueling control system 424 may control the length of hoist cable 426 deployed from storage device 428. As depicted, hoist cable 426 may exit fuselage 404 at hoist unit 430.

With reference now to Figure 5, a more detailed illustration of a refueling boom is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this illustrative example, a more detailed view of refueling boom 422 is illustrated. Refueling boom 422 may be in deployed position 501 with hoist cable 426 attached to refueling boom 422 at attachment point 432. Further, hoist cable 426 may exit fuselage at location 503.

Refueling boom 422 may include fixed tube 500, telescoping tube 502, nozzle 504, ruddevator 506, ruddevator 508, and strain sleeve 510. Telescoping tube 502 may extend or retract along the direction of arrow 514. Refueling boom 422 also may move in the direction of arrow 516. The movement of refueling boom 422 along the direction of arrow 514 and along the direction of arrow 516 may be controlled using ruddevators 506 and 508. In these examples, ruddevators 506 and 508 may be examples of ruddevators 329 for positioning system 327 in Figure 3.

As depicted in this example, distance 518 may be calculated between location 503 and attachment point 432. Distance 518 may be calculated using measured distance 520. Measured distance 520 may be between attachment point 432 and attachment point 434.

With reference now to Figure 6, an illustration of a hoist cable system is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this illustrative example, hoist cable system 423 for refueling boom 422 is depicted. As depicted, hoist cable system 423 may be depicted inside an exposed view of fuselage 404 of tanker aircraft 402 in Figure 4.

In this illustrative example, storage device 428 may take the form of drum 600. Hoist unit 430 may take the form of actuator unit 602. As depicted, actuator unit 602 may include electromechanical actuator 604. In other advantageous embodiments, actuator unit 602 may include a hydraulic actuator, such as hydraulic actuator 372 in Figure 3. Electromechanical actuator 604 may be connected to drum 600 in this depicted example.

Electromechanical actuator 604 may be operated to deploy and retract hoist cable 426. For example, without limitation, electromechanical actuator 604 may be operated to turn drum 600 to deploy and retract hoist cable 426. In this manner, electromechanical actuator 604 may be operated to turn drum 600 to change length 607 of hoist cable 426.

With reference now to Figure 7, an illustration of a drum and an actuator unit is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. A more detailed view of drum 600 and actuator unit 602 in Figure 6 is depicted in this illustrative example.

With reference now to Figure 8, an illustration of a control law for managing a length of a hoist cable is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. In this illustrative example, control law 800 may be an example of a control law within control laws 357 in Figure 3. More specifically, control law 800 may be implemented using length identification process 362 and command generation process 364 in Figure 3. In this illustrative example, the signals generated by control law 800 may be digital signals.

Control law 800 may be used to generate command 801. Command 801 may be generated to control at least one of deploying and retracting hoist cable 340 in Figure 3, using, for example, without limitation, electromechanical actuator 347.

Control law 800 may include distance 802, multiplier 804, adder 806, and second order low pass filter 810. Distance 802 may be between location 350 where hoist cable 340 exits fuselage 319 of the aircraft and first attachment point 348 for hoist cable 340 on refueling boom 316. For example, without limitation, distance 802 may be between first attachment point 432 and location 503 in Figure 5. In this illustrative example, distance 802 is given by the following equation:

distance = D * sqrt(2-2*cos(elev)*cos(azim)*cos(phi)- 2*sin(phi)*sin(elev)) wherein D may be measured distance 371 between second attachment point 379 of refueling boom 316 to fuselage 319 and first attachment point 348 for hoist cable 340 on refueling boom 316, elev may be elevation angle 334 for refueling boom 316, azim may be azimuth angle 336 for refueling boom 316, and phi may be constant elevation angle 338 for refueling boom 316 when refueling boom 316 is in stowed position 344.

In some illustrative examples, phi may be an elevation angle for refueling boom 316 from a location of hoist unit 342 for hoist cable 340. In these illustrative examples, D may be measured distance 371 between first attachment point 432 and second attachment point 434 in Figures 4 and 5. Further, this measured distance, D, may be substantially equal to the distance between location 503 and second attachment point 434 in Figure 5.

Distance 802 may be multiplied by "slack" using multiplier 804 to form adjusted length 812. In this illustrative example, "slack" may be an example of one implementation for additional length 368 in Figure 3. "Slack" may be about 1.10 in these examples and may provide a length for hoist cable 340 that is about 10 percent greater than distance 802.

In this illustrative example, cable offset 814 may be added to adjusted length 812 using adder 806 to form desired length 816. Cable offset 814 may have a negative value in these examples. Further, cable offset 814 may take into account a desired length for hoist cable 340 when refueling boom 316 is in stowed position 344.

As depicted, desired length 816 may be sent into second order low pass filter 810 to generate command 801. Second order low pass filter 810 may filter desired length 816 to reduce noise in command 801. This noise may be a portion of the signal for desired length 816 that has a frequency greater than a selected frequency.

Second order low pass filter 810 may also perform limiting operations on desired length 816 using limiter 822 to generate command 801. Limiter 822 may take into account a total length of hoist cable 340. For example, without limitation, command 801 may be generated to deploy hoist cable 340 based on the total length of hoist cable 340 available for deploying. In some illustrative examples, limiter 822 may also limit desired length 816 with respect to the operating capabilities of actuator unit 345. These operating capabilities may include, for example, without limitation, an acceleration and a rate of turning for electromechanical actuator 347 to turn cable storage device 341 to deploy hoist cable 340.

In these illustrative examples, limiter 822 may perform these limiting operations in a number of steps. For example, limiter 822 may take into account the total length of hoist cable 340 in one step, the acceleration capabilities for electromechanical actuator 347 in a second step, and the rate of turning capabilities for electromechanical actuator 347 in a third step. In other advantageous embodiments, these limiting operations may be performed by limiter 822 in one step.

Second order low pass filter 810 may generate command 801. Command 801 may be a command to change current length 352 of hoist cable 340 to substantially desired length 816. Control law 800 may be used to manage the length of the hoist cable during flight in these examples. With reference now to Figure 9, an illustration of a flowchart of a process for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. The process illustrated in Figure 9 may be implemented using control processes 356 in Figure 3. Further, this process may be implemented to manage hoist cable 340 for refueling boom 316 in Figure 3.

The process may begin by identifying position 332 of refueling boom 316 (operation 900). In operation 900, position 332 may be identified using position sensor system 337 in number of sensors 322. The process may then identify desired length 366 for hoist cable 340 using position 332 of refueling boom 316 in response to identifying position 332 (operation 902). In operation 902, distance 367 may also be used to identify desired length 366. Desired length 366 may be calculated from location 350 in fuselage 319 to first attachment point 348 on refueling boom 316 in these illustrative examples. In other advantageous embodiments, desired length 366 may be calculated from cable storage device 341 to first attachment point 348 on refueling boom 316.

The process may generate command 370 to change current length 352 of hoist cable 340 to substantially desired length 366 (operation 904), with the process then returning to operation 900 as described above. Command 370 may control hoist unit 342 such that hoist cable 340 may be deployed, retracted, or some combination of both to achieve desired length 366 for hoist cable 340.

The process illustrated in Figure 9 may be performed substantially continuously. For example, without limitation, in this illustrative example, the process may be performed about 80 times per second. In this manner, desired length 366 may be identified and command 370 generated substantially continuously while refueling boom 316 is in operation.

With reference now to Figure 10, an illustration of a flowchart of a process for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom is depicted in accordance with an advantageous embodiment. The process illustrated in Figure 10 may be implemented using control processes 356 in Figure 3 and control law 800 in Figure 8. Further, this process may be a more detailed process for operation 902 in Figure 9.

The process may begin by calculating a distance for hoist cable 340 using elevation angle 334, azimuth angle 336, constant elevation angle 338, and measured distance 371 (operation 1000). Measured distance 371 in operation 1000 may be between first attachment point 348 and second attachment point 379. The process may then add additional length 368 to distance 802 to form an adjusted length (operation 1002). Additional length 368 may be added to allow refueling boom 316 more movement during flight. The adjusted length may be adjusted length 812 in Figure 8.

Thereafter, the process may add an offset to the new identified length to identify desired length 366 (operation 1004). This offset may be, for example, without limitation, cable offset 814 in Figure 8. The process may then filter the identified desired length 366 to reduce noise in desired length 366 (operation 1006), with the process terminating thereafter. The noise reduced may be portions of the signal for desired length 366 above a selected frequency. The second order low pass filter may be implemented using second order low pass filter 810 in Figure 8.

The flowcharts and block diagrams in the different depicted embodiments illustrate the architecture, functionality, and operation of some possible implementations of apparatus and methods in different advantageous embodiments. In this regard, each block in the flowcharts or block diagrams may represent a module, segment, function, and/or a portion of an operation or step. In some alternative implementations, the function or functions noted in the block may occur out of the order noted in the figures. For example, in some cases, two blocks shown in succession may be executed substantially concurrently, or the blocks may sometimes be executed in the reverse order, depending upon the functionality involved. Also, other blocks may be added in addition to the illustrated blocks in a flowchart or block diagram.

For example, without limitation, operation 1004 in Figure 10 may be performed prior to operation 1002 in Figure 10. In other words, the offset may be added prior to adding additional length 368. In other advantageous embodiments, additional steps in addition to the steps depicted in Figure 10 may be performed.

Thus, the different advantageous embodiments may provide a method and apparatus for managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom for an aircraft. A position of the refueling boom for the aircraft may be identified. A desired length for the hoist cable may be identified using the position of the refueling boom in response to identifying the position of the refueling boom. Thereafter, a command may be generated to change a current length of the hoist cable to substantially the desired length.

Managing a hoist cable for a refueling boom using a position of a refueling boom may use fewer hardware components, sensors, and/or other components, as compared to managing the hoist cable based on the tension in the hoist cable. Further, using the position of a refueling boom as compared to the tension in the hoist cable allows the hoist cable system to be comprised of electromechanical actuators in place of or in addition to hydraulic actuators. The different advantageous embodiments provide a system for managing the hoist cable that allows the hoist cable to have a substantially constant length at varying airspeeds during flight.

The different advantageous embodiments may take the form of an entirely hardware embodiment, an entirely software embodiment, or an embodiment containing both hardware and software elements. Some embodiments may be implemented in software, which may include, but is not limited to, forms, such as, for example, without limitation, firmware, resident software, and microcode.

Furthermore, the different embodiments may take the form of a computer program product accessible from a computer usable or computer readable medium providing program code for use by or in connection with a computer or any device or system that executes instructions. For the purposes of this disclosure, a computer usable or computer readable medium may generally be any tangible apparatus that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device.

The computer usable or computer readable medium may be, for example, without limitation, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, or a propagation medium. Non- limiting examples of a computer readable medium include a semiconductor or solid state memory, magnetic tape, a removable computer diskette, a random access memory (RAM), a read-only memory (ROM), a rigid magnetic disk, and an optical disk. Optical disks may include compact disk - read only memory (CD-ROM), compact disk - read/write (CD-R/W), and DVD.

Further, a computer usable or computer readable medium may contain or store a computer readable or usable program code such that when the computer readable or usable program code is executed on a computer, the execution of this computer readable or usable program code causes the computer to transmit another computer readable or usable program code over a communications link. This communications link may use a medium that is, for example, without limitation, physical or wireless.

A data processing system suitable for storing and/or executing computer readable or computer usable program code will include one or more processors coupled directly or indirectly to memory elements through a communications fabric, such as a system bus. The memory elements may include local memory employed during actual execution of the program code, bulk storage, and cache memories, which provide temporary storage of at least some computer readable or computer usable program code to reduce the number of times code may be retrieved from bulk storage during execution of the code.

Input/output or I/O devices may be coupled to the system either directly or through intervening I/O controllers. These devices may include, for example, without limitation, keyboards, touch screen displays, and pointing devices. Different communications adapters may also be coupled to the system to enable the data processing system to become coupled to other data processing systems or remote printers or storage devices through intervening private or public networks. Non-limiting examples may be modems and network adapters and are just a few of the currently available types of communications adapters.

The description of the different advantageous embodiments has been presented for purposes of illustration and description and it is not intended to be exhaustive or limited to the embodiments in the form disclosed. Many modifications and variations will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. Further, different advantageous embodiments may provide different advantages, as compared to other advantageous embodiments.

The embodiment or embodiments selected are chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the embodiments, the practical application, and to enable others of ordinary skill in the art to understand the disclosure for various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated.