RBR50 company Lockheed Martin and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) had two successful helicopter flight tests with unmanned flight capability as part of the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program.
Using Lockheed’s OPTIMUS technology, the ONR team demonstrated the ability to accomplish an autonomous approach and landing in an unprepared environment, planning, routing and executing the mission without requiring user input onboard a K-MAX unmanned helicopter.
“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,” says Roger Il Grande, director of Airborne Systems Programs for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business. “As we continue to operate on a fast-moving battlefield, additional mission modules can be added or removed without costly overhauls to the system, providing an advanced, flexible capability for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy.”
With less than half an hour of training, a 20-year-old lance corporal landed a full-size Aurora Flight Services Little Bird helicopter by simply touching a map application on a tablet, says Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. The Marine instructed the helicopter to set down on an unprepared landing site and the aircraft autonomously descended.
“We just said, ‘Here’s your tablet, here is how it works. With one touch of the button, we want you to land that helicopter,'” Klunder says.
The technology can either be integrated into an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or retrofitted onto an existing manned helicopter, expanding the range and lift capacity. “What we’re talking about doing with a full-size helicopter – and we’ve done it – is delivering like 5,000 pounds of cargo, critical life-saving equipment to Marines in the field, Klunder says.
The retrofit kit is suitable for use aboard utility aircraft for casualty evacuation and in humanitarian assistance operations, says Brig. Gen. Kevin Killea, vice chief of naval research and commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
Using electro-optical, forward-looking infrared, and light-detections and ranging sensors, the AACUS allows the aircraft flight computers to continuously scan the surrounding environment, Killea said.
The system weighs about 100 pounds and is platform agnostic. It can be programmed to work with any aircraft that has a digital, fly-by-wire flight computer. Officials previously told National Defense Magazine that the goal was to develop a kit that cost less than $25,000 per unit.
“It opens up myriad landing possibilities. It’s taking unmanned aerial systems to the next level by introducing autonomy that works,” Killea said.
During the demonstrations, obstacles were set at certain potential landing zones. The aircraft avoided those obstacles and alerted operators of obstructions in a chosen landing zone – then chose a more suitable, unobstructed landing zone nearby. That capability itself is a leap forward in sense-and-avoid technology and has happy implications for landings under circumstances where a pilot’s vision is obscured – a concern in Afghanistan’s dusty environment.
In addition to military applications, Lockheed Martin OPTIMUS can be used on commercial platforms for forestry and construction, pipelining, and firefighting missions because it can reach areas without improved roads, work around-the-clock, and provide valuable situational awareness to its operators.
Lockheed Opens Office in Israel
Lockheed has opened an office in southern Israel’s desert region to support the corporation’s growing presence in that nation. Former Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Shelly Gotman, managing director of Israel for the company’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) business, will head the office.
Lockheed Martin’s IS&GS business has been the top provider of information technology solutions and services to the U.S. government for the past 19 years, the company says. It has been growing its overall international presence with major operations in the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia. Current customers include NATO; British air traffic management organization NATS; the Australian Tax office and the United Kingdom Ministry of Justice.
?The opening of our Lockheed Martin office in Be?er Sheva is a demonstration of our commitment to supporting the Israeli Defense Force?s Move to the South strategy,? said Chairman, President and CEO Marillyn Hewson. ?Establishing this office is also an important step in the establishment of Lockheed Martin in Israel.?
She noted, ?In the United States, Silicon Valley stands as our country?s center for information technology innovation. With the opening of this office and the strategic investments being made by the IDF, it is clear that Be?er Sheva is on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of Israel.?