Aerial Blimp Refueling of UAVs
Aerial refueling from blimps might be easier than we think. Currently we use C-130s to fuel Boeing Attack helicopters and Large Cargo Type helicopters, which can be a dangerous operation. The C-130 must slow down to very slow speeds and the helicopters are flying at high rates of speed. The problems occur when there is turbulence and the fully loaded with fuel C-130 is in the middle of a transfer of fuel. There are ways to slow down a C-130 and reduce it's turbulent airflows:
But when we are taking about refueling a swarm of UAVs it maybe very difficult to do so by use of a large aircraft. Small UAVs or MAVs will be quite adversely affected by even the slightest vortex or turbulence. Our solution is to provide a lighter than air slow moving craft with very mild and predictive induced airflows, slower speeds and a way to block wind while refueling a fleet or swarm of UAVs or MAVs without loss of aircraft or failure to complete refueling.
Using a large foamy mattress like mesh with cone shaped pores it maybe possible to refuel large swarms of UAVs using a lighter than air blimp or airship. The large airship would have it's population system on top, while underneath on the bottom skin would be this foamy mesh which would drop down and unfold. The bottom of the foamy mesh would be Kevlar to prevent small arm strikes, which might ignite the fuel being used. On the foam side would be cone shaped receptors, which would only activate when and if a small UAV came in contact with them, once it pulled away that nozzle would disengage. Only those cone receptacles, which have UAVs on the other end would dispense the fuel. This process would work well for small UAVs in a swarm or even MAVs. In the event of use with MAVs each cone much closer together. As the UAV or MAV approached it would not need a perfect lock on the receptacle as is now needed for in-flight refueling of fighter aircraft or the larger Predator UAVs. Imagine a gigantic cupcake pan.
only made of foam with each hole coming to a point, which would match the exact shape of the UAV or MAV as the hole got smaller. These large foam meshes for refueling could be up to several hundred square feet or as small as many square meters. If a UAV fails to attach to the mesh it would simply fly back around and try again. Once attached it's forward propulsion would insure it stays connected as it presses against the mesh. The foam mesh devise would drop and extend downward at an angle as the air pressure caused by the relative wind against it will push it slightly towards the rear of the aircraft, therefore each cone would be slightly angled downward, so it will be level during refueling. Most UAVs have large proportional fuselages and the front ends stick forward for stability. In this concept it would be best for the UAV to be a pusher-propelled craft;
although would also work well for a craft which has motors as much as 6 or more inches from the front farthest forward point. If most or all of the front fuselage embeds itself in the receptacle made to match, the aircraft will remain in place, with even the smallest amount of forward pressure from the thrust of the motor or power plant. If a UAV or MAV is unable to be refueled or it's sensors are showing damage in anyway, it can then be secured within the mesh and upon retraction into the airship remain in the mesh. Once within the Blimp its tail will be secured by a series of hanging hooks, then brought back with the airship. This methodology may also be used to collect UAVs or MAVs upon completion of mission, without the damage incurred by nets. Such a system can launch and retrieve UAVs or MAVs without the need for landing gear thus saving the weight for additional sensors or mission components.