Machine Design

Unmanned helo thinks for itself

GTMax, an unmanned helicopter designed and built at Georgia Institute of Technology under funding from Darpa

, combines eight flight-control systems, three guidance systems, and a software-based controller. Together, they let the aircraft reconfigure itself on the fly and maneuver despite component and system-level failures, all without any help.

In tests, the helicopter proved it can learn as it flies and autonomously plan a route through obstacles. It can also fly and maneuver based on what it sees on an onboard camera rather than using a navigation system. Other partners in the project include Draper Laboratories, Vanderbilt University, Scientific Systems Co. Inc., Oregon Graduate Institute, Honeywell Laboratories, and Boeing.

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