NASA’s Robot Airplane Practices for In-flight Refueling

Aerial refueling could keep drones such as the NASA’s Global Hawk airborne for up to a week. Now two drones have taken a record-setting step toward that future by flying as close as 40 feet apart during a test on Jan. 21.

A Northrop Grumman Proteus test aircraft and a NASA Global Hawk engaged in their aerial courtship at a nose-bleeding altitude of 45,000 feet. That test helped human engineers better understand and reduce the risks leading up to the first autonomous aerial refueling of two Global Hawks in the spring of 2012

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