You may have witnessed autonomous aircraft flying various objectives, but have you ever seen the American well-known military chopper Black Hawk fly without a pilot? Last February, this helicopter passed through testing with a revolutionary system that allows it to operate without a pilot; it is a breakthrough technology in the twenty-first century produced by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Department, a research and development agency of the United States Department.
The DARPA Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) programme accomplished the first flight of an unmanned UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter. On February 5th, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, performed 30-minutes of unmanned flight with the optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) over the US Army facility at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
ALIAS is a modular, extensible automation system for current manned aircraft that enables safe reduced crew operations, allowing high levels of automation to be added to existing aircraft. It also serves as a foundation for the integration of further automation or autonomy capabilities tailored to specific tasks.
The ALIAS programme has taken advantage of significant advancements in aircraft automation systems over the last 50 years, as well as equivalent advancements in remotely piloted aircraft. Pilots must still manage sophisticated interfaces and respond to unforeseen situations in today’s most automated planes.
ALIAS seeks to assist mission execution from takeoff until landing, including addressing contingency events such as aircraft system breakdowns automatically. Interfaces that are simple to use facilitate supervisor-ALIAS interaction.
It is not new to test autonomous flight in real life; just last year, Airbus tested the A350 aircraft with a complete takeoff, cruise, and landing system that was outstanding.
This helicopter can be used for rescue missions and other supplies on the battlefield. It will be fascinating to witness similar technologies in the next years.
Tell us in the comments what you think about the self-driving Black Hawk helicopter.