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Autonomy options for the Marine Corps have taken a major step forward, as the Office of Naval Research completed a helicopter flight demonstration with autonomous capability that will enable the Marine Corps to rapidly resupply forces on the front lines.

The system consists of a sensor and software package that can be integrated into any manned or unmanned rotary-wing aircraft to detect and avoid obstacles in unfavorable weather conditions, or to facilitate autonomous, unmanned flight. The unmanned helicopter can take supplies from a base, pick out the optimal route and best landing site closest to the warfighters, land, and return to base once the resupply is complete — all with the single touch of a handheld tablet.

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