The Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS), developed by he U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), was recently put to test at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, to great success.
Specifically designed for ease of use even to personnel without specialized training, this program can allow requests for supplies made on a common military tablet to be quickly fulfilled in unmanned helicopter flight.
The AACUS was announced back in January 2012 as a five-year project with an estimated cost of US$98 million. Its core consists of an overall monitoring software and high-definition sensors, which can be applied to various existent rotor crafts. In comparison with other systems, the greatest edge of ACCUS is its intuitive design: during the recent test on Quantico Base, several Marines without prior pilot training can learn to master its use on any military tablet under 10 minutes.
The program was developed to explore as well as extend the autonomous capabilities of unmanned aerial vehicles in the battlefield, allowing them to independently map out the optimal flight route in response to frontline requests, while identifying and avoiding potential threats and obstacles at unfamiliar landing sites—all without human intervention.
Compared to the traditionally labor-intensive air-drop or land transport missions, ACCUS can adapt more quickly to adverse weather conditions or potential enemy attacks, avoiding unnecessary life risks to vehicle crews. In the future, an ACCUS-equipped transport aircraft can be expected to take off both from land and from the sea to carry up to 5,000 lb (about 2,268 kg) of cargo—or even assist in rescue missions, casualty evacuation, or on manned flight as secondary relief to pilots.