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12:37 PM, December 14, 2017
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AACUS-enabled helicopter (Image: US Office of Naval Research)

The US Office of Naval Research has completed the final helicopter flight demonstration with autonomous capability as part of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program.

AACUS is a partnership between ONR and technology company Aurora Flight Sciences.

The system consists of a sensor and software package that can be integrated into any manned or unmanned rotary-wing aircraft to detect and avoid obstacles (like telephone wires, other vehicles or large ground objects) in unfavorable weather conditions, or to facilitate autonomous, unmanned flight, ONR said in a statement Wednesday.

AACUS will enable the Marine Corps to rapidly resupply forces on the front lines using cutting-edge technology sponsored by ONR.

“AACUS is an autonomy kit that can be placed on any rotary-wing platform and provide it with an autonomous capability. Imagine a Marine Corps unit deployed in a remote location, in rough terrain, needing ammunition, water, batteries or even blood,” said Walter Jones, ONR executive director.

“With AACUS, an unmanned helicopter takes the supplies from the base, picks out the optimal route and 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,” Jones added.

It is designed for simple use; within 15 minutes a Marine can be trained to call up a resupply from an AACUS-enabled helicopter using only a hand-held tablet.

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