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DARPA considers formation flight autopilot

A US Air Force study has concluded that close formation flying involving as few as two aircraft could deliver fuel savings of up to 14%, and additional work on the concept is being considered by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Speaking at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' 45th Joint Propulsion Conference in Denver, Colorado, the USAF's chief scientist Werner Dahm said the research is intended to ensure that "two aircraft can maintain the sweet spot [for formation flight]".

With the air force having concerns about pilot fatigue and the ability to maintain the precise formation needed to maximise the fuel saving, the solution is expected to come via the automation of the formation flight mode.

© Staff Sgt Samuel Rogers/US Air Force
Formation flying could deliver significant fuel burn savings

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