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Will Roper: Air Force, Boeing Deal on KC-46 Could Lead to Autonomous Aerial Refueling

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Will Roper
Will Roper

Will Roper, acquisition executive at the U.S. Air Force and a 2020 Wash100 Award winner, said a deal between the service and Boeing to implement a final remote vision system design for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker could pave the way for autonomous aerial refueling of other aircraft, Defense News reported Wednesday.

“A proper RVS like that is right on the doorstep to autonomy,” Roper told reporters. “All you have to do is take that data that tells the world inside the jet the reality of geometries between the airplane and the boom outside the jet. Once you have that, you simply need to translate it into algorithms that allow the tanker to tank itself.”

Boeing and the Air Force signed a memorandum of agreement on April 2 to implement the RVS 2.0 design for KC-46A at no additional cost to the service branch. The design will feature 4K color cameras and light detecting and ranging sensor to enhance depth perception.

“We have added an engineering change proposal into the deal with a not-to-exceed threshold of $55 million, so that when RVS 2.0 is done, we can then take the next step beyond 2.0 to develop those autonomy algorithms and install them if we think we can certify them for safe use,” Roper said.

About The Wash100

This year represents our sixth annual Wash100 Award selection. The Wash100 is the premier group of private and public sector leaders selected by Executive Mosaic’s organizational and editorial leadership as the most influential leaders in the GovCon sector. These leaders demonstrate skills in leadership, innovation, achievement, and vision.

Visit the Wash100 site to learn about the other 99 winners of the 2020 Wash100 Award. On the site, you can submit your 10 votes for the GovCon executives of consequence that you believe will have the most significant impact in 2020.