Firm Plans to Build Autonomous Huey Helicopters

U.S. Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, operate a UH-1Y Huey on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton during a training exercise on Camp Pendleton Calif., Nov. 4, 2016. Aurora Flight Science wants to build an autonomous Huey helicopter. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Rhita Daniel)U.S. Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, operate a UH-1Y Huey on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton during a training exercise on Camp Pendleton Calif., Nov. 4, 2016. Aurora Flight Science wants to build an autonomous Huey helicopter. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Rhita Daniel)

The scene is chaotic. Troops on the ground need a resupply of weapons. Tapping into his hand-held GPS device, a Marine calls over to a nearby amphibious assault ship. And in minutes, a flight chief on the deck is sending up a UH-1H helicopter — with no pilot. An autonomous Huey.

It’s the goal of the futuristic Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS) program created by Virginia-based Aurora Flight Sciences. The program integrates another Aurora-created system, the tactical autonomous aerial logistics systems, or TALOS, in order to send up helicopters at the request of troops on the ground.

“The primary goal of the AACUS program is to enable rapid cargo delivery by unmanned, and potentially optionally-manned, vertical take-off and landing systems,” the company said in a release Thursday.

Aurora hopes to integrate TALOS and demonstrate it on a Huey in 2017 and 2018, the company said. The Office of Naval Research is funding and sponsoring the program.

“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,” said John Wissler, vice president of Aurora’s research and development center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“The arrival of a Huey as our third test platform frames a key point for future customers – the TALOS system is platform agnostic; you’re not buying a new fleet of helicopters, you’re buying a capability set for your current fleet,” he said.

The TALOS system was previously demonstrated on a Boeing H-6U Unmanned Little Bird flown autonomously, the release said, and also three different human-piloted Bell 206 aircraft; the system can be integrated into any manned or unmanned rotorcraft, according to Flightglobal.

Watch how it works in the video below:

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Oriana Pawlyk
Oriana Pawlyk is a reporter for Military.com. She can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.