Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS), developed by Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, achieved a major milestone last week when it successfully delivered cargo to the U.S. Marines in the Integrated Training Exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in California.
AACUS completed its first closed loop mission from takeoff to landing for its intended purpose: actual cargo resupply to Marines. The AACUS enabled UH-1H helicopter successfully completed an autonomous cargo sustainment flight delivering 520 pounds of water, gasoline, MREs, and replacement communications gear including a packed cooler to represent urgently required cargo such as blood. This was the first ever autonomous point-to-point cargo resupply mission providing critical logistics support to Marines in need.
Developed under Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Innovative Naval Prototype program, the AACUS enabled UH-1 helicopter is capable of flying completely autonomously, using only its onboard sensors, advanced computers and intelligent algorithms to plan its trajectory and to select its own landing sites in unmapped and hazardous environments. “The AACUS program exceeded all of our expectations,” said Dennis Baker, AACUS PM, “The team delivered on each of the ambitious technical performance goals, on schedule and under budget.”
“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.”
Aurora’s AACUS program was recently selected by the American Helicopter Society (AHS) for its Howard Hughes Award in recognition of an outstanding improvement in fundamental helicopter technology brought to fruition in the previous 18 months. The AACUS team was recognized at the Grand Awards Banquet on May 16th during AHS’s 74th Annual Forum & Technology Display in Phoenix, Arizona.