Lockheed Martin company Sikorsky has successfully demonstrated to the US Army the autonomous capabilities of a Black Hawk helicopter to safely conduct logistics and rescue missions. 

The demonstration was conducted in collaboration with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The partnership has been formed to support DARPA’s Aircrew Labour In-cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) project that aims to develop autonomous solutions for flight safety and efficiency for rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.

Sikorsky’s autonomy system, called MATRIX , is a significant part of this project.

Sikorsky Innovations director Igor Cherepinsky said: “We believe MATRIX technology is ready now for transition to the Army as they look to modernise enduring helicopter fleet and acquire future vertical-lift aircraft.”

The latest effort also falls under the US Army’s Project Convergence 2022 (PC22) experiment.

Held on the 12, 14, and 18 October, the demonstrations at the PC22 gateway begun with the pilots flying/landing aircraft, followed by the activation of the MATRIX system to handover full control to the flight computer.

Once the autonomous mode was activated, the helicopter, carrying 400 units of real and simulated blood, covered 83 miles of distance, representing its long-endurance capabilities.

A combined cargo delivery and casualty evacuation mission was also conducted as part of the demonstration. It elaborated on how a ground operator with a secure radio can control the uncrewed helicopter.

This capability will allow the forces and aviators to choose whether to deploy pilots or not, especially in highly contested and limited visibility scenarios.

Cherepinsky added: “In addition to increasing flight safety and reliability, MATRIX technology enables survivability in high tempo, high threat 21st-century security environments, where Black Hawk helicopters operate today, and DEFIANT X and RAIDER X helicopters could operate in future.”