The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has flown a pilotless helicopter for the first time for 30 minutes.
The UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter completed its flight equipped with experimental autonomous flight software over the U.S. Army facility at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, on Feb. 5, and it performed another similar one on February 7.
The ‘eerie’ craft is equipped with a new AI (Artificial Intelligence) from Sikorsky called the “Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System” (ALIAS), according to a DARPA press release.
Sikorsky, is a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation, the U.S. multinational aerospace and military company.
“ALIAS aims to support execution of an entire mission from takeoff to landing, including autonomously handling contingency events such as aircraft system failures,” DARPA says, also reporting that it will serve to execute specific missions autonomously.
The Sikorsky MATRIX™ autonomy technology helicopter apparently was created to give the Army “operational flexibility,” as Stuart Young—DARPA program manager—said in the release.
“This includes the ability to operate aircraft at all times of the day or night, with and without pilots, and in a variety of difficult conditions, such as contested, congested, and degraded visual environments,” he added.
DARPA first tested MATRIX in March 2021, although it did so with a pilot executing the flight that consisted of autonomous takeoff and landing using a tablet, as the technology was too new at the time to be used without a pilot on board.
“It might look disconcerting to see a @LockheedMartin Martin @Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter flying itself…but, don’t worry, we’ve got this! DARPA’s ALIAS technology just enabled the first ever flight of this iconic chopper…with nobody onboard,” the agency wrote on Twitter.
While one netizen warned DARPA in a comment, “Good luck with the testing! Please make sure there are strong safety features, especially on the weapons.”