The research agency of the US Department of Defense (DARPA) announces that it has achieved a small feat with its famous Black Hawk helicopter. A specially equipped UH-60A successfully flew and maneuvered for half an hour without a pilot in the cockpit with the help of Lockheed Martin, on February 8. The operation was repeated a few days later.
DARPA expects a lot of benefits from this type of aircraft. “Pilots can focus on mission management rather than mechanics,” Stuart Young, program manager at the Office of Tactical Technology, said in a press release. Another advantage is operational flexibility. This system mobilizes smaller teams with the ability to fly at any time of day or night, even in difficult conditions.
This experiment was held as part of the ALIAS program (Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System) which aims to complete an entire mission autonomously, from takeoff to landing, including the management of emergency events such as breakdowns. The Agency observes that today, even though pilots of civil airliners are most of the time in automatic mode, they still have to manage complex interfaces and react to unexpected situations.
DARPA hopes its program will allow aircraft to become completely autonomous, requiring no interaction. This would provide unparalleled flexibility for affected operations.