ARLINGTON, Va. The Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS), from Aurora Flight Sciences in Manassas, Virginia, and the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia, achieved a major milestone having delivered cargo autonomously to U.S. Marines in the Integrated Training Exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. This event marked the first-ever autonomous point-to-point cargo resupply mission providing critical logistics support to Marines in need, officials say.
“Aurora is building autonomous systems that will enable tomorrow’s intelligent aircraft,” adds 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.”
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 completed an autonomous cargo sustainment flight delivering 520 pounds of water, gasoline, meals ready-to-eat (MREs), and replacement communications gear, including a packed cooler to represent urgently required cargo such as blood.
Developed under the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Innovative Naval Prototype program, the AACUS enabled UH-1 helicopter can fly 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,” AACUS PM Dennis Baker says. “The team delivered on each of the ambitious technical performance goals, on schedule and under budget.”
Helicopter Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System from ONR, Aurora Flight Sciences wins award for innovation -- By Sierra Jones, Office of Naval Research
Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing Company, develops smarter aircraft utilizing robust and intuitive autonomous systems. Aurora leverages the power of autonomy to make both manned and unmanned flight safer and more efficient. Headquartered in Manassas, Virginia, Aurora has more than 550 employees and operates in six locations, including research and development centers in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Luzern, Switzerland; and manufacturing facilities in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and Columbus, Mississippi.
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.