WASHINGTON - The helicopter kicked up a cloud of freshly fallen snow that partly obscured the ground below, but despite the poor visibility, it gently touched down in a landing that was unremarkable except for the fact no one was at the controls.

The helicopter, filmed during testing by the Naval Research Laboratory, was piloted by a 100-pound (45-kg) sensor and software package that officials said can turn any rotary-winged aircraft into a virtually autonomous drone able to fly with minimal input from the Marine Corps troops it was designed to serve.

Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research, said the sensor and software pack is "truly leap-ahead technology" that will let a Marine with no flight experience issue landing instructions to a cargo helicopter via tablet computer after just a few minutes of training.


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