The Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk helicopter took its first solo flight on its own without any pilot or crew this February and is now ready to assist the US Army. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, signed a five-year contract with the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) this June to deliver 120 Black Hawks. The autonomously flying aircraft’s name is UH-60 Black Hawk, and its trade name is S-70.
The S-70 Black Hawk is a medium-lift, combat assault utility Optionally Piloted Vehicle and supports multiple missions. It helps the pilots to go on long combat missions by flying autonomously. This autopilot mode provides more time for pilots to make plans for the missions in the air.
S-70 Black Hawk has four blades on the front and tail rotors and comes equipped with two engines. The helicopter can accommodate four crew members and 11 troop members and can lift weights up to 9,000lbs. Its average cruise speed is 151 knots/second.
Combat utility automation
Lockheed Martin Cooperation has designed the S-70 Black Hawk to fence in air missions such as air assault, medevac, combat search and rescue, command and control, and VIP transport. The company’s military tech aligns with the requirements of the US Army.
The helicopter comes with a suite of technologies that make its automation more efficient. The digital avionics tech provides situational awareness and interoperability. This means that the S-70 Black Hawk will be able to make use of the information received from the location it is in. The survival chances are increased by the helicopter’s laser warning system, the common missile warning system, and the integrated vehicle health management system.
Most importantly, the S-70 Black Hawk’s autonomous flying capabilities can assist long-haul missions in terrain that is hard to navigate which helps pilots especially if the course doesn’t allow for good visuals or if it’s a long flight. This also curbs the possibility of accidents from happening.
The first unsupervised flight
A few months back, Sikorsky, in association with DARPA, witnessed UH-60A (A for Automation) Black Hawk’s first 30-minute unmanned flight in Kentucky. The US DARPA ran this mission under its ALIAS (Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System) program. This automation system is precisely designed to take care of the entire mission on its own from take-off to landing to facing contingency events such as technical failures. The way that ALIAS ensures the safety of the crew is by continuously monitoring the state of the aircraft and quick recall of flight procedures.
Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Matrix autonomy technology allies with the ALIAS technology to assist the crew in flying even when there are issues with visibility or communication. The other features that it comes with are route planning, obstacle avoidance, and take-off and landing. This tech further leverages the autonomous aircraft by making it understand the environment in 3D.
YouTube: First Uninhabited Black Hawk Flight
Photo credit: The images used are owned by Lockheed Martin and DARPA and have been provided for press usage.