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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
STEERABLE DROGUE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/060224
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A steerable drogue (2) comprises a steering mechanism (22, 34, 36) for twisting the canopy support arms (6) to produce an aerodynamic force in flight which can be used to produce movement of the drogue in a required direction.

Inventors:
MOUSKIS CHRISTOPHER (GB)
Application Number:
GB2008/003780
Publication Date:
May 14, 2009
Filing Date:
November 10, 2008
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
FLIGHT REFUELING LTD (GB)
MOUSKIS CHRISTOPHER (GB)
International Classes:
B64D39/00
Foreign References:
EP1736407A12006-12-27
GB2237251A1991-05-01
EP0807577A21997-11-19
US6604711B12003-08-12
US5255877A1993-10-26
EP1736407A12006-12-27
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HECTOR, Annabel, Mary et al. (40-43 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1JQ, GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A steerable drogue for in-flight refuelling comprising a reception coupling for receiving a probe, a canopy carried by a plurality of support arms, and a steering mechanism arranged selectively to alter the configuration of at least one of the support arms such that the or each support arm produces an aerodynamic force on the drogue in a chosen direction.

2. : A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 1, in which the steering mechanism is arranged selectively to change the angle of incidence to the air flow of at least a part of the or each support arm.

3. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 2, in which the steering mechanism is arranged selectively to twist the or each support arm substantially about an axis along its length.

4. A steerable drogue as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the at least one support arms comprises a plurality of spaced support arms, or all of the support arms.

5. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 4, in which the steering mechanism is arranged to select the amount of alteration of configuration of a support arm dependent upon the position of the support arm around the drogue and the chosen direction.

6. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 4 or claim 5, in -which the steering mechanism is arranged to impart an amount of alteration to each support arm which varies progressively around the drogue.

7. A steerable drogue as claimed in any preceding claim, in which the steering mechanism is arranged within the reception coupling, and in which the steering mechanism engages the or each support arm.

8. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 7, in which the steering mechanism comprises a moveable actuator engaging the base of the or each support arm.

9. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 8, in which the actuator comprises an annular member and a movement mechanism arranged to move the annular member in a plane arranged to be perpendicular to the airflow.

10. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 9, in which the movement mechanism is arranged to move the annular member in the chosen direction.

11. A steerable drogue as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising intercostal members between each adjacent pair of support arms.

12. A steerable drogue as claimed in any preceding claim, comprising a controller for operating the steering mechanism.

13. A steerable drogue as claimed in claim 12, comprising an acceler¤îmeter arranged to measure acceleration of the drogue, the controller being arranged to operate the steering mechanism in response to the measured acceleration to stabilise the drogue.

14. A steerable drogue as claimed in claims 12 or 13, comprising means for measuring the relative position of the probe, the controller being arranged to operate the steering mechanism in response to the measured positions to align the drogue with the probe.

15. A steerable drogue as claimed in claims 12 to 14, comprising a calculator means arranged to calculate the required movement of the drogue;

16. A method of steering a drogue for in-flight refuelling, the drogue having a reception coupling for receiving a probe, and a canopy mounted on the array of support arms, the method comprising altering the configuration of at least one: support arm such that the or each support arm produces an aerodynamic force in a chosen direction.

Description:

STEERABLE DROGUE

This invention relates to a steerable drogue for in-flight refuelling. A drogue is commonly attached to a fuel hose which is extended from the refuelling aircraft. It comprises a reception coupling arranged to receive a probe fitted on the receiving aircraft, and a parachute structure for stabilising the drogue and guiding the probe into the coupling. Typically, the parachute comprises a canopy mounted on an array of support arms extending from the coupling.

A difficulty with in-flight refuelling is in aligning the refuelling probe with the drogue. Various ways of controlling the position of the drogue have been suggested, such as the use of movable control surfaces or thrusters. Howevei these tend to be complex and heavy components.

According to the present invention there is provided a steerable drogue for in-flight refuelling comprising a reception coupling for receiving a probe, a canopy carried by a plurality of support arms, and a steering mechanism arranged to selectively alter the configuration of at least one of the support arms such that the support arm(s) produce(s) an aerodynamic force on the drogue in a chosen direction.

Preferably, the steering mechanism is arranged to change the angle of incidence to the air flow of the support arm(s). For example, the support arms may comprise a substantially planar body portion, which extends radially of the drogue. The steering mechanism may be arranged to twist the support arm(s) along the length thereof, away from the radial direction. Preferably the configuration of at least two or more of the support arms is altered; for example

a plurality of substantially evenly spaced support arms, or all of the support arms may be altered.

In one convenient arrangement, the steering mechanism is arranged within a reception coupling which mounts the support arms, the mechanism engaging the base of some or each of the support arms. For example, the proximal ends of the arms may pass through an actuating member such as a control ring, the ring being selectively moveable to alter the angle of the support arms to the airflow direction. With this arrangement, the ring may be provided with two motors arranged to move the ring in perpendicular directions in a plane across the drogue, perpendicular to the airflow direction. In this manner, the control ring may be moved in any chosen direction in the plane.

With this arrangement, movement of the control ring produces a change in the angle of each of the support arms which differs progressively according to the position of the support arm around the drogue. Those support arms aligned with the direction of the movement of the ring experience minimum change, and those extending across the direction of movement experience maximum change. This has the effect of producing an aerodynamic force in the direction of movement of the control ring. Thus this arrangement provides a simple steering mechanism.

Where the ring engages with all or many of the support arms, there is a small relative change in the angle of the twist of adjacent arms is small. Thus, the drogue may comprise intercostal members such as tie wires or nets for facilitating the guidance of the probe towards the reception coupling, and alleviating the problem of the probe penetrating between the support arms.

The drogue may also comprise a controller for operating the steering mechanism. The controller may receive information concerning the position or acceleration of the drogue, calculate the required movement of the drogue, and operate the steering mechanism accordingly. For example, the drogue may include accelerometers arranged to measure acceleration of the drogue, and the controller may operate the steering mechanism to stabilise the drogue; Alternatively or in addition, the controller may receive information concerning the relative position Of the probe, and operate the steering mechanism to align the drogue with the probe.

The invention also comprises the method of steering a drogue as defined above. Thus the invention comprises a method of steering a ╬▒rogue iur m-mgui refuelling, the drogue having a canopy mounted on the array of support arms, the method comprising selectively altering the configuration of at least one support arm such that the or each support produces an aerodynamic force in a chosen direction.

In order that the invention may be more readily understood, reterence will now be made to the accompanying drawings, in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic partial cross-sectional side view of a drogue according to one embodiment of the present invention;

Figure 2 is a partial schematic side view of the drogue of Figure 1 showing a front view of the control ring;

Figure 3 is an exploded view of part of Figure 2;

Figure 4 is a schematic cross-sectional front view of the support arms;

Figure 5 is a further schematic front view of the control ring and reception coupling; and

Figure 6 is a flow diagram of a method of controlling the drogue of Figure 1 according to the invention.

Referring to Figure 1, a drogue 2 comprises a reception coupling 4 and an array of support arms 6 extending therefrom which support the canopy 8 at the distal ends thereof. The reception coupling 4 includes an internal passage 5 for receiving a refuelling probe, and is attached to a fuel hose 7. The support arms 6 surround the entrance to the probe passage 5 and are each joined to adjacent arms by tie wires 9 for avoiding penetration between the arms by the probe. The arms 6 each have a substantially planar body portion, extending radially of the drogue. As will be described in more detail below, the drogue of the invention includes a steering mechanism comprising a pair of servo motors 10 mounted in the reception coupling 4 and powered by an air driven turbine generator 11 and flywheel 12. A controller 14 is provided for operating the motors 10.

Referring now to Figure 2, each support arm 6 is mounted within the coupling 4 by a pivotal mount 16. The arm 6 has a crank-shaped proximal end 18 engaging a control ring 22. The control ring 22 is mounted substantially coaxially within the reception coupling for translational movement under the action of the servo motors 10. The control ring 22 has an array of slots 20 around the outer edge thereof which receive the cranked ends 18 of the arms 6.

It can be seen that translational movement of the control ring 22 turns the crank 18 of the arm 6 such that the body the arm 6 rotates around is longitudinal axis (see also Figure 4). Thus the arm 6 twists with respect to the radial direction. This increases the angle of incidence of the arm 6 to the airflow direction, which is substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the drogue 2 in use. Such rotation produces an aerodynamic force in the direction of the

translational movement of the control ring 22; Le. perpendicular to the airflow direction and the axis of the drogue.

The canopy 8 may also be movably mounted by means of a pivotal mount 24 on the distal end of the support arm 6, such that the canopy 8 may maintain its shape despite the twisting movement of the arm 6.

Referring also to Figure 3, it can be seen that the support arm pivotal mount 16 may be carried by the hinged support 26 which allows the support arm to fold inwardly about a hinge point 27, as is usually required for drogues. A spherical bearing 28 is also provided for the crank end 18 of the arm in the control ring 22 to accommodate misalignment in the ring as the arm rotates.

Some or all of the support arms 6 may be connected to the reception coupling in the manner described above. Referring to Figure 4, when the control ring is moved in a downward direction in the figure, as shown by the arrow 30, the support arms will move from a position shown shaded, to a position shown below and unshaded. The maximum twisting displacement takes place in the arms (e.g. 6b) which are oriented across the direction of ring movement. Minimum twisting displacement occurs to the arms (e.g. 6a) oriented close to the direction of ring movement 30. The movement provides progressive change in the twisting deflection between the extremes 6b and 6a. The effect of this is to produce an aerodynamic force, in use, in the same downward direction 30 as the direction of control ring movement. Furthermore, the relatively small change in twist angle between adjacent arms means that it remains possible to join these with tie wires 9 or net.

Figure 5 illustrates a mounting arrangement for the control ring 22, The control ring 22 is mounted to an intermediate ring 32 by means of a first pair of

opposed hinged struts 34. The intermediate ring 32 in turn is connected to the reception coupling by a second pair of opposed hinged struts 36. It will be recognised that such an arrangement allows translational movement of the controlling ring 22 within the reception coupling 4, without allowing rotational movement thereof.

Referring now to Figure 6, an aircraft to be refuelled 38 has a refuelling probe 40 which is to be inserted in the reception coupling 4 of the drogue 2. The controller 14 receives information concerning the position of the probe in relation to the drogue axis. The turbine generator 11 is mounted in the reception coupling so as to be operated by the air flow. The controller drives the servo motors 10 using power from the turbine generator 11. The motors are driven by the required amount to cause movement of the control ring and thus the drogue towards the required position. Thus drogue "homes in" on the probe.

As the control of the ribs may demand significantly peak power, a flywheel 12 is provided in the shaft. The flywheel 12 is sized so as to store sufficient kinetic energy to meet peak power requirements. In particular when aerodynamic forces and mechanical friction are taken into account, a peak occurs with high aero loads at maximum rotational speed of the support arms. However, in general, the power requirement will be less than this peak. Thus the flywheel enables the turbine and generator to be sized to meet the average power demand.

Alternatively or in addition, the drogue can be stabilised using a pair of accelerometers 42 provided on perpendicular axes. I ne controller, tnen uses information from the accelerometers 42 to provide restoring forces via the motors 10.