Combining Stereo Vision and Inertial Navigation for Automated Aerial Refueling

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This paper describes the design of an extended Kalman filter to obtain the precise relative position of two aircraft in a refueling maneuver while operating in GPS-denied environments. The extended Kalman filter uses the inertial navigation system already present in both aircraft as well as the stereo camera system organic to new tanker systems. The aircraft trajectories are generated to represent an authentic refueling profile with flight dynamics software and executed in a three-dimensional virtual environment to enable deterministic simulation of the stereo camera system and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the combined system in an authentic refueling scenario. Results show the system can achieve sufficient accuracy using only stereo machine vision and inertial navigation system measurements, though the system is capable of incorporating GPS measurements when available for an additional increase in accuracy.


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Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics