Case study

Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS)​

Cognitive systems engineering for autonomous flight


The primary goals of the AACUS Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) program were:

  • The development of advanced autonomous capabilities to enable rapid cargo delivery by unmanned, and potentially optionally-manned, Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) systems – i.e., helicopters.
  • To enable any Marine to supervise this capability from an intuitive, hand-held, field interface.
  • To enable specialists to plan and execute multiple, simultaneous missions for these full-size, autonomous helicopters.


Through extensive cognitive systems engineering efforts, we supported the development of first-of-their-kind software system interfaces for Marines engaging AACUS in the field and supervising from rear bases.


The AACUS system was recognized with numerous awards for innovation, including the Howard Hughes Award given by the American Helicopter Society (win) and the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy (finalist).

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