In cooperation with the U.S. Army, Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has successfully demonstrated optionally piloted flight of a Black Hawk helicopter, a significant step toward providing autonomous cargo delivery functionality to the U.S. Army. Sikorsky Aircraft is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).
Sikorsky Aircraft is currently in development of an Optionally Piloted BLACK HAWK (OPBH) in collaboration with the US Army AMRDEC. Sikorsky appreciates the value in providing the pilot the capability to become a mission coordinator. The ability for the pilot to leave the cockpit for potentially dull and dangerous missions significantly reduces crew limitations and increases BLACK HAWK flight operations.
“Imagine a vehicle that can double the productivity of the BLACK HAWK in Iraq and Afghanistan by flying with, at times, a single pilot instead of two, decreasing the workload, decreasing the risk, and at times when the mission is really dull and really dangerous, go it all the way to fully unmanned,” says Chris Van Buiten, Vice President of Technology and Innovation.
The modified BLACK HAWK will fly a fully autonomous cargo mission, from take-off through picking up a load and flying a route, to returning for the next pickup. Unmanned Resupply is an early application of Sikorsky’s optionally piloted concept – the ability to selectively remove one or both pilots from the cockpit while maintaining the full spectrum of BLACK HAWK capabilities.
“To control something that’s within sight is one challenge. To control something on the other side of a mountain and have it safely put down a load successfully and safely is a big challenge.”…continues Mr. Van Buiten, Vice President of Technology and Innovation.
Sikorsky has a commitment to this technology and will fly an OPBH demonstrator in the near future. Optionally Piloted vehicles are capable of initial fielding in 2015.
Sikorsky is working with Kutta Technologies, Inc, Think-A-Move, Ltd, and Advanced Optical Systems, Inc in development of the OPBH.