Camera Systems for In-Flight Refueling

Safe and sure refueling control with 3D Vision System

Camera control for A330 MRTT in-flight refueling system

Camera control for A330 MRTT in-flight refueling system

In-flight refueling has been used by military organizations for 60 years, enabling strategicaerial surveillance over great distances and rapid transports to any point on Earth.

Technically speaking, in-flight refueling is a very complicated and dangerous maneuver. Coupling two airplanes mid-flight requires constant visual monitoring. Beyond the commonly used hose and drogue systems, large, modern refueling aircraft also use a boom that pumps far more fuel. The boomer, or boom operator, must have continuous, clear sight of the contact zone and the boom.

Only the most recent generations of large refueling aircraft use electronic cameras exclusively for the visual monitoring of the refueling procedure.

The operator sits at a console behind the cockpit and steers the boom with the aid of live images from the cameras. These cameras, together with the monitor and all the system components that process image data, are directly relevant to safety of refueling missions and as such are subject to  orresponding observations and approval procedures.

Kappa camera systems for A330 MRTT

The most modern refueling tanker relies on Kappa camera systems. Together with Airbus Defence & Space (formerly Airbus Military), Kappa developed the vision system for the A330 MRTT. The boom in particular is highly sophisticated, with a throughput of up to 4,500 L/min..

The vision system consists of logically separated subsystems. The main system delivers a 3D view of the boom’s contact area using two separate optical channels, both Full HD. This view is the operator’s primary instrument; the central video management unit superimposes displays of all relevant fueling procedure data. A second system delivers a composite panoramic view, with a 240°-330° field of view, based on three camera views, providing the overview of all processes. Another pair of cameras uses swivel, tilt and zoom functions to follow the return drogues’ fueling operations. Systems are partially redundant, ensuring secure operation even in the event of failure.


In-Flight Refueling 3D AAR

Arrangement of seven real-time systems

3D Boom Control

240°-330° panoramic view of all procedures behind and beneath the refueling plane

High-resolution 3D view of the contact area of the central boom (distance up to 30 m)

Two additional views to monitor the hose and drogue under the wings

Real-time processing (180 MB of image data per second per camera)

The system works in color during daylight; at night, sensitivity up to 850 nm (IR) provides safe, secure operation

 3D camera pair for air-to-air refueling system

3D camera pair for air-to-air refueling system

Resistance to extreme environmental influences

Working temperature range of 140 Kelvin

Resistance to electromagnetic disruptions up to 160 kW (lightning strike immediately adjacent to the camera)

Environmental pressure fluctuations in ratio of 10:1 (up to 15 km flight altitude, extreme overpressure in nitrogen-filled camera)

Shock and vibration resistance up to 20 g


This project was recognized by Airbus with their in-house award for project


Continued technological development with field experience – even at night

Kappa continues to develop system characteristics and components. Applying users’  field experience in recent years, management of image data has been optimized in connection with other system data to adapt to different customers and their specific application profiles and procedures. Moreover, the latest camera technologies have elevated safety during nighttime operations due to significant improvements in night vision capability.



Alejandro Prensa-Nieto

Key Account Manager

Tel.: +49.5508.974.202