Autonomy options for the Marines have taken a major step forward, as officials at the Office of Naval Research announced April 5 two successful helicopter flight demonstrations with unmanned flight capability at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., part of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System program. (Navy)
A package of sensors and software that is claimed to be able to turn any helicopter into an unmanned craft has passed two demonstration flights.
"In the demonstration tests at Quantico, a Marine with no prior experience with the technology was given a handheld device and 15 minutes of training," said a press release from the Office of Naval Research. "The Marine was able to quickly and easily program in the supplies needed and the destination, and the helicopters arrived quickly-even autonomously selecting an alternative landing site based on last-second no-fly-zone information added in from the Marine.
The Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System AACUS consists of a sensor and software package that can be fitted to manned helicopters to avoid obstacles in low visibility conditions. The same package also enables a helicopter to become an unmanned aircraft.
"Imagine a Marine unit needing more ammunition and water where a helicopter crew would be in peril trying to fly in, either from weather or enemy fire," said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research. "With AACUS, an unmanned helicopter takes the supplies from the base, picks out the optimal route and best landing site closest to the warfighters, lands, and returns to base once the resupply is complete-all with the single touch of a handheld tablet."