Marine Corps carried out a successful helicopter flight demonstration in its Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System [AACUS] programme
AACUS uses sensors to improve logistics by helping manned or unmanned helicopters to detect and avoid obstacles such as telephone wires; to fly in bad weather; and even to carry out logistics missions autonomously.
Imagine a Marine Corps unit deployed in a remote location, in rough terrain, needing ammunition, water and batteries.
With AACUS, an unmanned helicopter takes the supplies from the base, picks out the optimal route and best landing site closest to the warfighters, lands, and returns to base once the resupply is complete — all with the single touch of a handheld tablet.”
Planners say an operator with minimal training can use the system to easily call up supplies. During the recent UH-1 “Huey” demonstration, a Marine with no prior experience trained for just 15 minutes before successfully putting the system through its paces, delivering supplies and even autonomously selecting an alternative landing site based on last-minute no-fly-zone information.
We’ve developed this great capability ahead of requirements and it’s up to us to determine how to use it.
Marines today have grown up in a tech-savvy world, which is an advantage. We’ve got to keep pushing and moving this technology forward.
Sensor Field Report
Aircraft depend on army of sensors to monitor components and provide feedback. The advanced technology in modern fleets demands near-constant supervision and management to ensure optimal performance and avoid disaster in many cases. With the push toward autonomous flight, there are more sensors enmeshed in increasingly complicated systems.
Occasionally the main computer gets a signal that isn’t the result of a failing component, but a fault in the sensor itself. How do you know whether you’re dealing with a bad sensor or something worse?
There are so many types of sensors that it makes your head spin: mechanical, electromagnetic, chemical, thermal, and the list goes on. They’re designed to complement the element they monitor, and they sometimes have to weather extreme heat, speed and pressure to do so. For the most part, sensors are connected to their component or something very nearby and have a wire that takes information to the engine control unit.
Sometimes, there are additional wires for power, ground, signal, etc., but that varies depending on type. When there is a fault detected, the ECU makes a call sending the component into a default mode of a closed circuit, where the computer is basically executing its best guess of how to run things, or a total shutdown.
The problem is that your engine control unit can’t distinguish between a broken component and a broken sensor reporting on a perfectly good component. It will let you know something is up — usually on the dash as a general “check engine” light or a more specific light, if possible. Note that a check engine light should never be ignored on the grounds that it might just be a bad sensor. Many major problems can go unnoticed by human senses, and ignoring this warning because you feel like everything’s OK is a recipe for disaster.
The Sixth Sensor--Sniffing Out a Bad Sensor
Maintenance Techs start off using an scanner to run a system-wide test for trouble codes, which will narrow down what’s going on. Next, they’ll examine the component itself. If it looks to be in order, they’ll test the sensor. Depending on the operating mechanism, this might be done by checking for continuity, sending a small test signal based on specific operating parameters to measure the outcome, or simply examining the condition of the sensor itself. Sensors are subject to failure resulting from age, external damage or overexposure to component outputs. In case of the latter, both sensor and component problems would need to be addressed.
Due to the fact that sensors deal with complex and often sensitive systems, they operate under very specific parameters and they’re tied to mechanical operation and the engine control, this is something that’s best left to the professionals. DIY sensor diagnosis could easily result in a fried computer or worse. As always, when that check engine light comes on, be sure to actually have it checked.