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: 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.

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