DARPA has managed to fly ‘smart’ black hawk helicopter without any pilot on board. The ALIAS technology has thus far cost $160 million.
During an experimental project led by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Lockheed Martin, the renowned Black Hawk helicopter flew totally unmanned for the very first moment.
The initiative is known as ALIAS, which stands for “Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System,” and it was victorious after a UH-60 Alpha-model Black Hawk chopper made its maiden flight without a human operator on board a few days earlier.
The helicopter took off and landed flawlessly on its inaugural flight, despite the absence of a human pilot. In between, it traversed simulated airborne obstacles.
This Monday, Lockheed Martin posted video of the historical flight to its webpage, along with a description… “Sitting on the runway in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, one of Sikorsky’s pilots in an S-70 Black Hawk helicopter flips the optionally piloted cockpit switch from two to zero, exits the aircraft and walks across the runway.”
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The helicopter can be seen finishing “a pre-flight check list, starts its engines, spins up its rotors and takes off with no crew onboard,” according to the press release. “All of it happens fully autonomously.”
It’s already flown two test flights across Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with no one in the cockpit. The aircraft is supervised from the base by a remote station.
According to Defense News, the helicopter has a simple switch that allows it to fly autonomously:
There’s a switch in the helicopter called the “210 switch,” Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovation, told reporters during a Feb. 8 virtual press briefing. The switch indicates how many pilots are present in the aircraft; for the first time before the flight, it was turned to zero.
For 30 minutes, the ALIAS Black Hawk flew without anyone inside over Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Feb. 5 and then again on a shorter flight on Feb. 7.
The ALIAS technology has thus far cost $160 million, according to Lockheed Martin while publicizing that “This unique combination of autonomy software and hardware will make flying both smarter and safer.”
As AI advances, we can expect ALIAS to be merged with real-time AI-driven combat decision-making in the not-too-distant future, in a terrifying ‘Skynet’ situation that opponents of DARPA’s frightening AI-robot projects constantly worry about.