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ALIAS-equipped uncrewed helicopter takes off

9th February 2022 - 17:09 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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UH-60A/S-70A Black Hawk helicopter flies without an onboard pilot under the DARPA ALIAS programme. (Photo: DARPA)

Flexible and extensible automation architecture offers the prospect of uncrewed US Army rotorcraft missions in the Future Vertical Lift programme.

The DARPA Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) programme passed a milestone on 5 February with the first-ever flight of an uncrewed UH-60A/S-70A Black Hawk helicopter.

The 30-minute flight took place successfully at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

An additional uncrewed flight was conducted two days later, DARPA announced on 8 February. In the next month, the ALIAS programme plans to conduct the first flight of a fly-by-wire UH-60M Black Hawk at Fort Eustis, Virginia.

The US Army is exploring potential use cases for technologies such as ALIAS, including those outlined in its Future Vertical Lift programme.

The optionally piloted Black Hawk in the latest flights included retrofitted Sikorsky MATRIX autonomy technologies that form the core of ALIAS to assist pilots when flying in limited visibility or without communications, DARPA added.

Aside from its automation architecture for safe reduced-crew operations, ALIAS also facilitates the addition of ‘automation or autonomy capabilities tailored for specific missions’, DARPA noted.

‘With reduced workloads pilots can focus on mission management instead of the mechanics,’ said Stuart Young, program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office. ‘This unique combination of autonomy software and hardware will make flying both smarter and safer.’

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