Aurora Flight Services’ Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) made a leap forward as an AACUS-equipped helicopter autonomously delivered 520 lb of water, gasoline, MREs, communications gear, and a cooler capable of carrying urgent supplies to the US Marines in the field.
The demonstration was carried out last week and it was the world’s first autonomous point-to-point cargo resupply mission to Marines. It was carried out as a part of an integrated training exercise and involved the modified helicopter taking off and landing with minimal human intervention.
This was part of the $98-million project by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR). AACUS is an autonomous flight system that allows it to be retrofitted to existing helicopters to make them autonomous. It was built with the purpose of providing the armed forces with logistical support without putting a human crew at risk.
The helicopter equipped with AACUS can be called in by a soldier on a portable device with a minimum amount of training required. The system can handle takeoff, navigation, obstacle avoidance, and landing using the onboard sensors. It can also see if it is safe to land in the designated area or not.
“Aurora is building autonomous systems that will enable tomorrow’s intelligent aircraft,” says John Langford, Aurora’s founder, and CEO. “Whether it’s protecting Marines in combat or providing accessible urban transportation, autonomy is the key to the future of aerospace.”
You can check it out in action in the video below: