02 Jan 2018

Aurora conducts fully autonomous helicopter demonstration

Aurora Flight Sciences has carried out a successful demonstration of its autonomous helicopter system developed under the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program.

Held at Marine Corps Base Quantico’s Urban Training Center, the AACUS-Enabled UH-1H (AEH-1) conducted multiple flights, showcasing its ability to autonomously execute re-supply missions in relevant and austere settings.

AACUS is an aircraft-agnostic hardware and software suite, which enables a Marine on the ground to request a supply delivery via helicopter from a handheld tablet, requiring no advanced training to operate the system. AEH-1 is fitted with on-board lidar and camera sensors that enable it to detect and avoid obstacles and evaluate the landing zone. The system processes this information to perform on-board mission, route, and path planning to enable autonomous mission execution.

While previous demonstrations have showcased the system’s autonomy capabilities and interactions with trained operators, this is the first demonstration in which the aircraft performed cargo and utility missions in an operationally-relevant training environment with Marine interaction. As part of the demonstration, Marines loaded supplies for the aircraft before clearing the autonomy system for autonomous take-off.

AACUS Program Manager Stephen Chisarik said: “The Marines’ vision for the future of vertical lift operation and support is optionally-piloted aircraft.

“Aurora’s system enables any rotary-wing aircraft to detect and react to hazards in the flight path, and make appropriate adjustments to keep the aircraft safe.”

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