The company just revealed its Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) for the Office of Naval Research with a UH-1 Huey helicopter that flew from start to finish at the Quantico Urban Training Center in Virginia. What this means is that the Navy is looking to use these types of aircraft in the field to send provisions to combat units. Essentially, the autonomous helicopter could be loaded with provisions, Marines, or supplies to be delivered without a human pilot onboard.
What makes the Aurora Flight Sciences project different from others is that its autonomous flying system is aircraft-agnostic. It will work as well for VTOLs as it would for regular landing vehicles. It will be fitted on other airplanes, helicopters, and VTOLs. It consists of an autonomous flying system as well as equipment and software on board making use of LiDAR and camera sensors.
Making Autonomous Combat Aircraft for Wars
The autonomous maneuvering and human disengaged nature of modern warfare have been underway for decades now. Drones have replaced high-flying aircraft and jetfighters once piloted by humans launching missiles on what is considered as an enemy target. The Aurora project means Boeing can now autonomously pilot resupply and cargo missions without having to put a human pilot in the cockpit. It also means it now has access to that technology for its next line of jet fighters, making us closer to wars fought on screens than mano a mano.
Financially speaking, it makes sense to adopt such a system since the expenses involved in training military pilots and keeping them around are astronomical. Using autonomous aircraft does away with all this. The military can use any personnel located anywhere on the planet in front of its networked system to pilot from a distance or control the autonomous aircraft from afar.
In many ways, the military objective of delivering supplies is well exemplified here.
“An autonomous helicopter program designed to give a Marine on the ground the ability to request a supply delivery via helicopter, which flies to their location with minimal human assistance and autonomously land in an austere, possibly hostile landing zone. Upon delivery, the helicopter will autonomously return to its origin or proceed to another delivery point.”
It’s a brave new world indeed, and Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences project is delivering on autonomous flying for the military.
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