Sikorsky has undertaken a 30-mile autonomous flight using a Sikorsky S-76 commercial helicopter, which is now able to demonstrate autonomic site-selection and landing while being controlled by a tablet device.
The flight completed Phase 1 of a contract Sikorsky was awarded from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program.
Sikorsky’s ALIAS system commanded the demonstration flight from the company’s Stratford, Connecticut, facility to Robertson Airport in Plainville, Connecticut. The operator, sitting in the aircraft, planned and executed each phase of the autonomous mission with a tablet device while a ground station monitored its progress.
The goal of ALIAS is to develop and implement new levels of automation into existing military and commercial aircraft, to enable operation with reduced crews.
Sikorsky used its Matrix technology to develop, test and create hardware and software systems that improve piloted and ‘optionally piloted’ vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. To date, Matrix has been installed on Sikorsky’s S-76 Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) and Black Hawk helicopters.
With Phase 1 work completed, Sikorsky has started Phase 2 on a DARPA contract of US$10 million, focusing on further development of the initial ALIAS system with additional flight tests, enhancements to the human interface and transition to additional aircraft.
See a video of the flight here.