Sikorsky is testing a new technology kit on a Black Hawk helicopter that will eventually lead to fully autonomous flights. The initial test involved transforming a once mechanically controlled Black Hawk into one with fly-by-wire controls. Follow-on testing will take place with the goal of a fully autonomous flight in 2020.
The Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV) approach is being developed under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program. The goal is to allow safe aircraft operation with two, one, or no crew on board. In addition to enabling future unmanned flights, the technology also aims to aid in pilot decision-making during manned operations.