A 14,000 pound UH-60A Black Hawk has successfully flown without a pilot in a historical flight around Fort Campbell, the first automated flight for the US Army. The unmanned flight was said to be completed within 30 minutes last February 5, with another flight conducted on February 7th.
In partnership with the Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Sikorsky, the UH-60 Black Hawk was said to be retrofitted with the new flight system known as Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS), which flew the aircraft independently of any human intervention. The system is currently being tested on 14 different US Army aircraft.
However, this unmanned flight was specifically using a Black Hawk that was fitted with Sikorsky MATRIX, an artificial intelligence technology that also forms the ALIAS. According to Sikorsky’s website, MATRIX acts like a virtual second pilot that can help navigate dangerous and complex missions. MATRIX can fly a rotorcraft without a pilot or with all pilots as well. It especially thrives in missions wherein helicopters need to fly in low altitudes, where many obstacles are found.
It was reported that the Black Hawk helicopter flew around a simulated version of the Manhattan skyline in an attempt to demonstrate how effective and reliable the artificial technology was in an obstacle-rich environment.