First operational use of Aurora’s AACUS system
The AEH-1 aircraft is an AACUS-enabled UH-1H helicopter capable of flying completely autonomously, using only its sensors, advanced computers and intelligent algorithms to plan its trajectory and to select its own landing sites in unmapped and hazardous environments.
 

First operational use of Aurora’s AACUS system

AACUS makes cargo delivery to US Marines at Twentynine Palms
Last week, Aurora Flight Sciences’s Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) achieved a major operational milestone when it successfully delivered cargo to US Marines in the Integrated Training Exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California.

The flight was the AACUS program’s first completely closed loop mission from takeoff to landing for its intended purpose: actual cargo resupply to Marines.

In order to accomplish on-demand supply delivery in austere – possibly hostile – locations, AACUS-enabled aircraft are equipped with onboard lidar-based sensors for detecting and avoiding obstacles and other aircraft, and for landing zone evaluation.

System operation is intuitive and requires no advanced training. When an AACUS-enabled aircraft completes a resupply mission, it autonomously returns to its origin or another delivery point. Additionally, the AACUS system is portable and compatible with multiple rotary-wing aircraft models.

The AACUS technology was developed under Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Innovative Naval Prototype program. The aircraft unit itself is an AACUS-enabled UH-1H (AEH-1) helicopter capable of flying completely autonomously, using only its sensors, advanced computers and intelligent algorithms to plan its trajectory and to select its own landing sites in unmapped and hazardous environments.

“Aurora is building autonomous systems that will enable tomorrow’s intelligent aircraft,” said 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.”

During the flight, the AEH-1 delivered 520 pounds of water, gasoline, rations and replacement communication equipment. The cargo also including a packed cooler to represent time-critical cargo such as blood for emergency transfusions. This was the first ever autonomous point-to-point cargo resupply mission providing critical logistics support to Marines in need.

“The AACUS program exceeded all of our expectations,” said Dennis Baker, AACUS Program Manager, “The team delivered on each of the ambitious technical performance goals, on schedule and under budget.”

This first operational flight came at the end of a rapid, 18-month development period and earned Aurora’s AACUS program an American Helicopter Society (AHS) Howard Hughes Award in recognition of an outstanding improvement in fundamental helicopter technology.
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