Without any humans on board, a Black Hawk chopper has completed its maiden autonomous flight. DARPA, the experimental research arm of the US Defense Department, is responsible for this achievement. On February 5, 2022, a UH-60A Black Hawk performed a 30-minute uncrewed flight over the US Army installation at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, according to an announcement made this week. Two days later, at the camp, another completely autonomous flight was performed.
The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System was used by the chopper to complete the autonomous flight (ALIAS). Last year, DARPA and Sikorsky collaborated on a “supervised” autonomous test flight, with human pilots on board just in case something went wrong. The helicopters, on the other hand, can now perform their missions with little to no human intervention. “To demonstrate its capacity to adapt to a range of mission situations, the unmanned BLACK HAWK navigates across a simulated cityscape at normal speed and altitude, avoiding imagined buildings while rerouting in real time.” “At the same time, on-board sensor simulation gives real-time obstacle data,” stated Lockheed Martin, which owns Sikorsky, the firm that makes the Black Hawks.
“The Black Hawk chopper then does a sequence of pedal spins, maneuvers, and straightaways independently before landing perfectly,” it continued. DARPA’s ALIAS technology has already been used on fixed-wing aircraft. They believe that in the future, this type of autonomous flight technology will revolutionize battlefields.
In a statement, Stuart Young, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said, “With lower workloads, pilots can focus on mission management instead of mechanics.” “With this one-of-a-kind mix of autonomy software and technology, flying will become both smarter and safer.” “The Army will have far more operational freedom with ALIAS,” Young added. “This includes the capacity to fly aircraft at any time of day or night, with or without pilots, and in a range of challenging settings, such as contested, crowded, or degraded visual surroundings.”
The DARPA Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program successfully completed the first-ever flight of a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter with no one on board. On February 5th, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, accomplished a 30-minute unmanned flight with the optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) over the United States Army facility at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. On February 7th, an additional unoccupied flight was made. The Black Hawk has been refitted with Sikorsky MATRIXTM autonomy technologies, which are at the heart of ALIAS and can transform the way aviators and air crews carry out their missions by assisting them when flying in low visibility or without communications.