Lockheed Martin and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have demonstrated autonomous helicopter operations with US Army pilots flying the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) for the first time, Lockheed Martin announced on 29 October.
Together with the FAA and DARPA, Sikorsky is developing autonomous and optionally-piloted technology that will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)
During the demonstration a S-76B commercial helicopter that has been modified into an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) performed flights under “supervised autonomy”, according to Lockheed Martin.
The system is called Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS)
As noted by the company, the SARA helicopter executed a number of flight profiles, including automated take-off and landing, obstacle avoidance, automatic landing zone selection, and low-level contour flying. Following on from this demonstration, Lockheed Martin will fly the ALIAS system in a UH-60 Black Hawk testbed platform over the coming months.