Marine Corps may start getting resupplied by self-flying helicopters

The recent combat experience of the Marine Corps has exposed a need for systems that will allow for the resupply of forward-deployed units without bringing the additional risk to those troops conducting the resupply.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) explains the problem:

The need for this capability surfaced during Marine Corps operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, experts say. Cargo helicopters and resupply convoys of trucks bringing fuel, food, water, ammunition and medical supplies to the front lines frequently found themselves under fire from adversaries, or the target of roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices.

Now, it appears that a solution might be at hand:

Autonomy options for the Marine Corps have taken a major step forward, as ONR officials announced Dec. 13, a successful final helicopter flight demonstration with autonomous capability at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, part of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program.

The AACUS is an ONR-funded project which is meant to bring autonomous flight capability to any existing rotary-wing aircraft. During the recent successful test, a Marine with only 15 minutes of training was able to successfully program the AACUS using a handheld device. The AACUS-equipped UH-1 “Huey” helicopter then flew itself to the specified destination, and was even able to choose its own alternate landing site based on last-minute instructions from the Marine.


For more on military application of autonomous or unmanned vehicles, we recommend the following articles:

China continues to gain ground in the unmanned aerial vehicle market

Can a lightweight unmanned ground vehicle pack the punch of an Abrams tank?

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