Kaman K-Max helicopter equipped with the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) technology

Lockheed Martin and the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) have successfully demonstrated Lockheed Martin’s optimus mission system’s capability to accomplish an autonomous approach and landing in an unprepared environment.

The demonstration was conducted as part of the autonomous aerial cargo/utility system (AACUS) programme.

During the testing, which was held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, US, the team validated optimus technology aboard a Kaman K-MAX unmanned helicopter, which served as a test bed.

In a resupply mission, an active-duty marine interfaced with the mission system’s handheld flight-control device, and it was successfully planned, routed and implemented without user input.

Designed to enhance the on-board intelligence of the vehicle, optimus technology provides an advanced mission-planning capability for current and future helicopters, as well as rotary-wing aircraft.

It primes aircraft for operations in austere environments or terrains, and allows users to execute missions day and night in all weather conditions.

In addition, the system includes a multi-layer world model and active sensor control to improve on-board perception and understanding for missions in which operators have limited or no knowledge of the location.

Lockheed Martin mission systems and training business airborne systems programmes director Roger Il Grande said: "The Lockheed Martin optimus suite of systems and sensors use an open architecture positioned for future airborne capability environment (FACE) compliance, which applies and adapts both legacy and future mission systems to airborne assets."

"Optimus technology provides an advanced mission-planning capability for current and future helicopters."

The AACUS aims to enable the Marine Corps to rapidly resupply forces on the front lines while serving as an alternative to dangerous convoys, manned aircraft or air drops.

Naval research chief rear admiral Matthew Klunder said: "With AACUS, an unmanned helicopter takes the supplies from the base, picks out the optimal route and best landing site … lands, and returns to base once the resupply is complete, all with the single touch of a handheld tablet."

A sensor and software package of the system will be integrated into rotary-wing aircraft to detect and avoid obstacles in unfavourable weather conditions, or to enable unmanned flight.

Image: A Kaman K-Max helicopter equipped with the autonomous aerial cargo/utility system (AACUS) technology. Photo: courtesy of US Navy John F. Williams/Released.

Defence Technology