Autonomous Aerial Cargo Utility System (AACUS)


The primary focus of Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) is the development of advanced autonomous capabilities to enable unmanned and optionally manned Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) air systems to be fully capable of affordable and reliable rapid response cargo delivery to distributed small units in demanding conditions. AACUS encompasses the development and implementation of VTOL-based obstacle detection and avoidance, as well as autonomous unprepared landing site selection and dynamic execution to the point of landing with goal-based supervisory control by any field personnel with no special training. These capabilities, expected to form part of an open architecture framework in order to be used across different VTOL platforms, should have sufficient reliability to be entrusted with precision cargo delivery and evacuating human casualties from remote sites.
While the AACUS program is focused on the development of a capability that can be used across multiple platforms due to its mission-centered open architecture framework, the general air vehicle type is expected to be one that can carry ~1600 lbs of payload (with some internal capacity for casualty evacuations) with a range of ~200 km. Desired attributes of AACUS include the capability to rapidly respond to requests for support in all weather conditions, be able to be launched from sea and land, to fly in high and hot environments, and autonomously detect and negotiate precision landing sites in potentially hostile settings, which could require significant obstacle avoidance and aggressive maneuvering in the descent-to-land phase.

Project Info

Click here for a document on the Concept of Operations for AACUS provided by ONR.
Click here for the fact sheet on AACUS on the ONR website.
Click here for a press release on AACUS.


Sanjiban Choudhury, Sankalp Arora, and Sebastian Scherer. "The Planner Ensemble and Trajectory Executive: A High Performance Motion Planning System with Guaranteed Safety" (pdf)

Sankalp Arora, Sanjiban Choudhury, Sebastian Scherer, and Daniel Althoff. "A Principled Approach to Enable Safe and High Performance Maneuvers for Autonomous Rotorcraft" (pdf)