RE2 Robotics landed a $1 million contract from the US Army to develop an autonomous refueling system for the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the company announced.
The project, called the Remote Robotic Refueling for Extended Missions (R3EM), will be developed in support of the Autonomous and Robotic Remote Refueling Point (AR3P) program.
Under the R3EM project, RE2 Robotics will develop perception software to control a robotic arm mounted to an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV).
The UGV would then position and attach a fuel nozzle to the helicopter’s fuel port, refueling the aircraft without the need for human intervention.
To make this possible, perception sensors will provide 3D situational awareness throughout the UGV, enabling it to maneuver through an outdoor environment.
The proposed system will also be able to detect once refueling is done and automatically disconnect the nozzle.
Dr. Amanda Sgroi, director of computer vision and autonomy for RE2 Robotics, said that with the proposed system being unmanned, “it will enable troops to extend the range of their missions while eliminating the need for soldiers to remain isolated at refueling stations, further reducing the size of a mission’s logistical footprint.”
The Boeing AH-64 Apache
The Boeing AH-64 Apache has been a major part of the US military, as well as the country’s foreign military sales to various allied nations.
The US has approved the sale of the AH-64E to countries such as Morocco, the UAE, Egypt, and Qatar.
Boeing describes the AH-64 Apache series as the “world’s most advanced, proven attack helicopter.” The company’s primary customer remains the US Army, though it also caters to orders from a growing number of other countries.
AH-64E Version 6, the latest version in the series, is described as a “network-centric, fully integrated weapon system specifically built to dominate in highly contested and complex battle space.” It boasts upgrades to its sensor systems, as well as its software and weapons performance.