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Unmanned helicopter to take to the skies

Vintage Bell UH1 'Huey' helicopter


Aurora Flight Sciences is developing technology which can equip conventional aircrafts with autonomous systems that will enable them to carry out unmanned cargo deliveries.

The pioneering tech company’s Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program incorporates vertical take-off and landing-based (VTOL) obstacle detection and avoidance capabilities, which allows for autonomous landings at unprepared, off-field, non-cooperative landing sites.

Aurora’s is going to further enhance its AACUS by integrating it with the company’s Tactical Autonomous Aerial Logistics System (TALOS) on a UH-1H helicopter.

John Wissler, Vice President of Aurora’s R&D Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said: “TALOS is not an aircraft, nor is it a robot flying an aircraft – TALOS is transferrable intelligence designed with both manned and unmanned aircraft requirements in mind. The value of TALOS can be described in a few words – platform agnostic, scalable autonomy, onboard sensing of the environment, and on-board intelligence that no other system in the world can provide.”

The final phase of the AACUS program will transition the TALOS system onto an autonomous UH-1H platform currently under development at Aurora, with  demonstrations expected in 2017 or 2018.

“We know how to make things fly, we’ve been doing it for over 100 years,” said Retired Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems. “What we don’t yet know how to do, is how to couple aircraft and autonomous systems together, but great programs like this are helping us get there.”

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