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America’s New Generation of Uninhabited Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk

The Blackhawk Model UH-60 Alpha helicopter made its first fully unmanned flight as part of the Defense Research Projects Agency’s Advanced Labor Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Sikorsky announced on February 8.

DARPA by Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin has been working on ALIAS for almost six years, but even if the helicopter is flying entirely on its own, it always has a pilot in case. Igor Chelepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovations, said at a virtual press conference on February 8 that helicopters have a button called the “210 switch.” The switch shows how many pilots are on the plane. It will be zero for the first time before flight.

For 30 minutes, AKA Blackhawk flew unattended over Fort Campbell, Kentucky on February 5, and made another short flight on February 7. The aircraft performs pre-flight checks, takes off, and passes through a light detection and range-finding (LiDAR) simulation system that depicts the dense and complex skyline of New York City. According to Cherepinsky, the £ 14,000 plane meandered through Manhattan and autonomously responded to the simulated skyscrapers. After that, the plane landed on its own.

Blackhawk uses the Sikorsky MATRIX Autonomous System, designed to assist pilots and crew in flying in damaged environments, such as restricted visibility and poor communication. Sikorsky has developed MATRIX technology through Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA). U.S. Army pilots got it for the first time in 2018 as Service continues to work towards an option to manned the current fleet and future fleets under development as an option.

ALIAS has the ability to integrate a high level of automation into manned aircraft and undertake additional autonomous functions. Easy-to-use interface facilitates supervisor interaction with ALIAS DARPA and Sikorsky have jointly invested approximately $ 160 million in the ALIAS program. The program is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Young said. According to Young, the differences between the two are relatively even.