Rotorcraft aviation took a significant step toward pilotless aviation last month, when a Black Hawk helicopter flew for the first time under full-authority, fly-by-wire controls, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) reported on its web site. The May 29 test showed its developers at Sikorsky and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that achieving the goal of flying a Black Hawk completely autonomously by 2020 is realistic.
Sikorsky developed helicopter’s technology kit, which effectively removed all mechanical flight controls from the Black Hawk’s cockpit. The kit employs DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), which enables the aircraft to fly with two, one or zero crewmembers.
Sikorsky has been working on autonomous vertical flight since 2013, with its modified S-76B Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) having logged more than 300 unpiloted hours to date.