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DARPA and Sikorsky Team Up to Improve Aircraft Autonomy

By Juliet Van Wagenen | March 4, 2015
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A Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopter will be infused with more autonomous technology
A Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopter will be infused with more autonomous technology. Photo: Wikipedia

[Avionics Today 03-04-2015] The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Sikorsky an $8 million contract for Phase 1 of the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program. ALIAS aims to develop and insert new automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with a reduced onboard crew. The program is looking to take advantage of advances that have already been made in aircraft automation systems, including progress made in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), to ultimately help reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety.

Sikorsky will base its approach to ALIAS on its Matrix technology, a similar autonomy program that develops, tests and fields systems and software that improve the capability, reliability and safety of flight for autonomous, optionally piloted and piloted Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Matrix aims to give rotary and fixed-wing aircraft an increased level of system intelligence that is necessary to complete complex missions with minimal human oversight.

For the Phase 1 effort, the Sikorsky team plans to collaborate with DARPA’s ALIAS team on ground tests using a Black Hawk helicopter.

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