US military pilots begin test flights with the self-propelled Black Hawk helicopter

US military pilots begin test flights with the self-propelled Black Hawk helicopter

Flying a Black Hawk helicopter will soon be as easy as operating a tablet.

That's because the US Army is equipping their Sikorsky S-76B helicopters with new automation software that could someday limit their need for pilots.

The army carried out tests of the new system late last month and successfully dropped and landed an S-76B helicopter in Virginia.

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HOW DOES IT WORK?

DARPA has developed an autonomous platform, the Aircrew Laboratory In-Cockpit Automation System.

It can be integrated into helicopters so that the aircraft is controlled with a tablet and other interceptors.

"Pilots" do not require much training in advance and the controls are precise.

For example, a pilot uses the tablet to change the target of the mission while the interceptors control more precise things, such as left or right or up and down.

The Aircrew Laboratory In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) is being developed by DARPA, the Defense Department unit specializing in the development of new technologies for the military.

Almost anyone can use the system with some practice, DARPA said.

For the demonstration in October, the pilot had trained only 45 minutes.

The project is part of Army's larger Future Vertical Lift program, which revolutionizes helicopter use by the military, ArmyTimes said.

With ALIAS, pilots control a helicopter only with a tablet and other interceptors.

So far, the program has logged more than 300 hours of autonomous flight.

For example, a pilot uses the tablet to change the target of the mission while the interceptors control more precise things, such as left or right or up and down.

The controls proved as accurate as if the pilot were physically in the cockpit.

In the test, a novice could float over a field, avoid another vehicle and safely land the helicopter.

The test lasted more than an hour and involved "realistic missions" such as: Low-level off-air, takeoffs and landings in a restricted area, selection of landing zones, flight path planning and avoidance of obstacles on wire ropes.

"Hovering in inclement wind is a task requiring the attention of a human pilot, but automated flight control achieves" consistent "precision," said Graham Drozeski, DARPA Program Manager for ALIAS.

The military hopes crewmembers can focus more on the task at hand.

"Actually, we want the pilot's eyes and mind for the fight, rather than a height," said Drozeski.

"That's the main focus of ALIAS: bringing the latest advances of unmanned aerial vehicles into a piloted aircraft via an interface that allows a fluid interaction with the autonomous capabilities."

With a successful test in the books, DARPA will now work to integrate ALIAS into a UH-60 Black Hawk

With a successful test in the books, DARPA will now work to integrate ALIAS into a UH-60 Black Hawk

With a successful test in the books, DARPA will now work to integrate ALIAS into a UH-60 Black Hawk.

They hope to be able to carry out tests and flight demonstrations as early as 2019.

Ultimately, they believe that in some situations ALIAS could pave the way for the complete elimination of pilots.

The helicopter can "fly itself and keep clear of obstacles so that the pilot can focus on the role of mission commander," said Lieutenant Colonel Carl Ott, who practiced the ALIAS simulator.

"However, the pilot is able to interact with the system to immediately make suggestions, re-route or reschedule."

WHAT IS THE CORMORANT SELF-FLYING HELICOPTER?

The self-flying ambulance is designed to fly victims from the battlefield, so flight crews do not have to be endangered during the war.

The Cormorant has enough power to carry 450 kilograms per 48 kilometers, which means he can take around 5,800 kilograms (50,000 pounds) in one day in one day.

The boat flies by itself with a range of laser altimeters, radars and sensors, reaching speeds of 100 knots (115 mph) and can be deployed at heights of up to 5,500 meters (18,000 feet).

The self-flying ambulance is designed to fly victims from the battlefield, so flight crews do not have to be endangered during the war

The self-flying ambulance is designed to fly victims from the battlefield, so flight crews do not have to be endangered during the war

It weighs about a ton and can be operated with a custom built remote control or with its own autonomous control system.

The purpose of the Cormorant is to transport troops, civilian passengers or supplies in confined spaces where helicopters can not fly.

Instead of using conventional propellers, the Cormorant is equipped with duct fans that hold the rotors in a protective shield if the vehicle hits a wall or other object.

These duct fans make it possible to start and land horizontally, and the vertical movement is controlled by internal rotors, which can only be seen from above or below.

capacity: 2 patients

length: 6.2 m (20 feet 4 inches)

width: 3.5 m (11 ft 6 in), without engines 2.15 m

height: 2.3 m, 1.8 m without engines

monitoring: Health sensors and a video connection

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