The iconic Black Hawk helicopter is now available both manned and unmanned. Image: Wikimedia
The military's iconic Black Hawk helicopter will soon be available pilot optional.
The Black Hawk UH-60, immortalized in Ridley Scott’s war film, has been a mainstay for the army since the late '70s, chiefly used to transport troops and provisions to and from the battlefield. Now the aircraft's manufacturer, Sikorsky, is developing a robocopter version of the UH-60 to do the same tasks more efficiently and without putting humans at risk.
It's controlled from a ground control station but can make crucial flying decisions without any human input, based on its 'Matrix' proprietary artificial intelligence technology. Yup, the control system is called the Matrix.
The Black Hawk 2.0 can fly a fully autonomous cargo mission. And it can operate both ways: unmanned or piloted by a human. It's thusly called the Optionally Piloted Black Hawk.
The Black Hawk drone recently completed its first autonomous flight. Image: Sikorsky
“The autonomous Black Hawk helicopter provides the commander with the flexibility to determine crewed or un-crewed operations," Sikorsky VP of Research & Engineering Mark Miller said in the release. "This allows the crew to focus on the more ‘sensitive’ operations, and leaves the critical resupply missions for autonomous operations without increasing fleet size or mix.”
The technology has been in R&D for several years now, but last year the Defense Department ramped up the research program, eager to build out a fleet of unmanned resupply aircraft.
The crux of the research is the Matrix system, which gives vertical takeoff and landing military machines a high amount of intelligence to complete complex missions full of obstacles with very little human oversight.
The roboticized military drones on.