Tanker Wake Effects on the Trailing UAV in Autonomous Aerial Refueling


1 Air Force Engineering University, Xi’an 710038, China

2 Air Force 93413, Shijiazhuang 050000, China


Autonomous aerial refueling is a typical close formation flight process, in which the tanker wake has a strong aerodynamic influence to the receiver. In order to develop the accurate aerodynamic models in refueling simulations and design the control laws for autonomous aerial refueling, the tanker wake effects on an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) are investigated through ANSYS CFX 15.0. A simplified boom-equipped tanker and a tailless delta wing UAV (named ZD-X) are used in this study. The aerodynamic characteristics of ZD-X in single flight are calculated first and the results are used as the benchmark for comparison. Then the aerodynamic characteristics of ZD-X under the effects of tanker wake are calculated, the final results are given in incremental form to facilitate comparative analysis. Numerical results are obtained from the tanker and receiver at varying lateral, vertical and longitudinal spacings. It is observed that the tanker wake effects on the receiver mostly come from wingtip vortices of the tanker wing and horizontal tail, and the lateral and vertical spacings have significant effects on the aerodynamic characteristics of the receiver, while the longitudinal spacing has almost no effect.