Sikorsky flies ‘autonomous’ S-76 over A to B route
Sikorsky has successfully demonstrated a thirty-mile pilotless flight using a modified S-76 to complete Phase 1 of an $8m award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) programme. Sikorsky’s ALIAS team directed the flight from its Stratford, Connecticut, facility to Robertson Airport in Plainville.
“ALIAS’S objective is to develop and insert new levels of automation into existing military and commercial aircraft to enable those aircraft to operate with reduced onboard crew,” said Mark Miller, Sikorsky’s Vice-president of Engineering & Technology. “ALIAS seeks to leverage advances in autonomy that reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance, and improve aircraft safety and reliability. With the advances we’ve made, the capability for safe, unobtrusive optionally-piloted flight is here. ALIAS is expanding the role of optionally-piloted helicopters for early entry into established aircraft programmes. It has the capability of not only reducing aircrew size, but also changing the type and length of training required for safe operation.”
A video of the demonstration can be viewed at: youtube.com/ watch?v=slzepy6gf-k
Meanwhile, Aurora Flight Sciences has tested new technology that will enable pilots to fly standard helicopters remotely, the US Department of Defense reports. A sensor package, the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/utility System (AACUS) allows the helicopter to be controlled from the ground via an application on a tablet computer. US Marines’ Captain Christopher Alfaro, logistics officer for the project, explains: “This means we can put this kit on any aircraft and as long as we do the science and engineering behind it, it can fly autonomously.” The AACUS system, which was tested on a Bell Jetranger, is designed to quickly attach/detach to various helicopters used by the USMC. The project’s aim is to make combat missions safer and easier for the pilots. It will be tested on a UH-1H Huey within the next year, and is expected to be introduced on the USMC fleet by 2018.