For the first time, Sikorsky showed the U.S. military how an autonomously flying unmanned Black Hawk helicopter could safely and reliably perform internal and external cargo resupply missions, as well as a rescue operation. .
The flights took place during the US Army’s Project Convergence 2022 experiment in October. They demonstrated that existing and future manned utility helicopters could potentially perform complex missions in a short-crew or autonomous mode. This would give Army commanders and airmen more options for how and when to use aircraft and pilots, especially when visibility is limited or in contested environments.
Igor Cherepinsky, Director of Sikorsky Innovations, said, “In addition to increasing flight safety and reliability, MATRIX technology enables survivability in the high-pace, high-risk 21st century security environments where Black helicopters Hawks operate today, and DEFIANT X and RAIDER X helicopters may operate in the future. Unmanned or undermanned helicopters could safely perform critical and rescue missions day and night over complex terrain and in contested battlespace.
The Sikorsky and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) team demonstrated how the optionally piloted Black Hawk helicopter without a crew on board can deliver a large amount of unharmed blood product while flying low and quickly above the ground using the pitch to obscure his signature; resupply troops with an external charge; and redirect mid-flight to evacuate a casualty.
The pilots flew and landed the Black Hawk, then activated the MATRIX system, giving full control to the flight computer. The pilots then exited, leaving the helicopter to independently conduct a long-duration medical resupply mission demonstration and a combined cargo delivery and casualty evacuation mission demonstration.
DARPA ALIAS made the first successful fully unmanned flights using a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter, in collaboration with Sikorsky in February this year.