OPTIMUS to Extend UAV Autonomy, Under Human Supervisory Control

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The autonomous K-MAX unmanned helicopter will provide air transportation of the UGV and will also provide an aerial watch of the target area. Photo: Lockheed Martin

The Office of Naval Research has awarded a $13.5 million contract to an industry team led by Lockheed Martin to explore advanced autonomous technologies aboard an unmanned vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The technology will enable aircraft to operate under supervisory control – a human operator will interact with the system at a high level while low level control is left to the automation.

During this first, 18-month phase of the five-year effort, the team will demonstrate the capabilities of its Open-Architecture Planning and Trajectory Intelligence for Managing Unmanned Systems (OPTIMUS) architecture. OPTIMUS is designed to be platform-agnostic, drawing from Lockheed Martin’s experience with the unmanned K-MAX cargo resupply program and the combined teams’ expertise in the fields of sensing, autonomy and human-machine interaction.

The team lead by Lockheed Martin includes industry, government, and academic partners. “This contract provides our team the opportunity to demonstrate how far we can expand the technology envelope,” said Roger Il Grande, director of Airborne Systems for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems & Sensors business. “Some of our cutting edge technology has already been demonstrated on K-MAX for the Army’s Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air System program, and is now deployed with the Marine Corps on the aircraft in Afghanistan.” The resulting technology will have the potential to improve the utility and effectiveness of current unmanned vertical take-off and landing aircraft, as well as offer pilots supplemental decision aids on legacy manned platforms.