Military

Black Hawk helicopter flies autonomous "rescue" mission without crew

Black Hawk helicopter flies autonomous "rescue" mission without crew
The Black Hawk carried out medical and logistic missions without humans aboard
The Black Hawk carried out medical and logistic missions without humans aboard
View 10 Images
The Black Hawk in flight
1/10
The Black Hawk in flight
The Black Hawk flew close to the ground for stealth
2/10
The Black Hawk flew close to the ground for stealth
The simulated casualty's vital signs were monitored wirelessly in flight
3/10
The simulated casualty's vital signs were monitored wirelessly in flight
The Black hawk flying with payload
4/10
The Black hawk flying with payload
The Black Hawk carried a cargo of real and simulated human blood
5/10
The Black Hawk carried a cargo of real and simulated human blood
The Black Hawk was controlled by an autonomous avionics system
6/10
The Black Hawk was controlled by an autonomous avionics system
The Black Hawk lifting off with an external payload
7/10
The Black Hawk lifting off with an external payload
Loading a simulated casualty aboard the Black Hawk
8/10
Loading a simulated casualty aboard the Black Hawk
The Black Hawk carried out medical and logistic missions without humans aboard
9/10
The Black Hawk carried out medical and logistic missions without humans aboard
The Black Hawk "rescued" a simulated casualty
10/10
The Black Hawk "rescued" a simulated casualty
View gallery - 10 images

The line between crewed and uncrewed aircraft has blurred even more after a Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter carried out a demonstration cargo mission as well as a medical "emergency rescue" entirely on its own without anyone aboard or human guidance.

The recent series of autonomous flight tests were conducted on October 12, 14, and 18 at the US Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona as part of the Army's Project Convergence 2022 (PC22) experiment in which US, British, and Australian service personnel evaluated 300 technologies, including long-range weapons, unmanned aerial systems, autonomous fighting vehicles, and next-generation sensors.

The general purpose of the exercise was to evaluate potential future military technologies. It also emphasizes the Army's insistence that any future combat helicopters like the Black Hawk must be pilot-optional or it's not interested. This isn't surprising, given that autonomous aircraft provide many advantages while maintaining the capabilities of a crewed helicopter. Not only can they be used for missions that would be too dangerous for a human crew, but they can also free up pilots from routine supply missions and they can self-deploy as needed.

The recent demonstration used a standard UH-60A Black Hawk that was retrofitted by Sikorsky and DARPA with DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) incorporating Sikorsky's MATRIX autonomy technology. These turned the Black Hawk into a completely automated aircraft that can take over key pre-flight procedures, including power, secondary control, wind checks, as well as the ability to control elements of adaptive flying like take off and landing. In addition, the helicopter can respond appropriately to emergency situations without human supervision.

During the demonstrations, the Black Hawk was loaded with a cargo of 400 units of real and simulated human blood weighing 500 lb (228 kg). Two pilots flew the Black Hawk to the starting point, landed, switched on the MATRIX system, and exited. MATRIX then took complete control of the helicopter and flew 83 miles (136 km) at 100 kn (115 mph, 185 km/h) while hugging the valley terrain at an altitude of 200 ft (60 m) to avoid detection.

The Black Hawk was then fitted with a 40-ft (12 m) sling holding an external load of 2,600 lb (1,179 kg) and took off. About 30 minutes into the flight, the helicopter was ordered to divert to a new location by a ground operator using a secure radio and tablet. Once there, it was commanded to release its load, land and wait while a casualty in the form of a mannequin was loaded aboard on a litter.

The Black Hawk "rescued" a simulated casualty
The Black Hawk "rescued" a simulated casualty

After taking to the air again, the Black Hawk flew to a medical station while a BATDOK health monitoring device integrated with the helicopter's communications system monitored the simulated casualty's condition and relayed the vital readings in real time to the medical team.

"We believe Matrix technology is ready now for transition to the Army as they look to modernize the enduring helicopter fleet, and acquire Future Vertical Lift aircraft," said Igor Cherepinsky, director of Sikorsky Innovations. "In addition to increasing flight safety and reliability, Matrix technology enables survivability in high tempo, high threat 21st Century Security environments where Black Hawk helicopters operate today, and Defiant X and Raider X helicopters could operate in the future. Uncrewed or reduced crewed helicopters could safely perform critical and lifesaving missions day or night in complex terrain and in contested battle space."

The video below recaps the autonomous Black Hawk mission.

Black Hawk Medical

Source: Lockheed Martin

View gallery - 10 images
8 comments
8 comments
guzmanchinky
The days where we will need actual pilots and drivers is coming to an end.
PrometheusGoneWild.com
The most expensive and old drone ever made. And they used a Lima model!
DARPA is on the cutting edge!
So amazing to make a VTOL aircraft fly itself.
Like Joby did years ago. And Volocopter. And Archer. And KMax. And many others…
Granted the Blackhawk is currently in the militaries inventory.
The US lost 50% of the helicopters we sent to Vietnam. And there is that wonderful movie/book Black Hawk Down.
The fact of the matter is the helicopter is obsolete.
To me this is a sure sign DARPA has lost it’s way.
Grunchy
I heard that Boeing is gonna eliminate the flight crew and rent out the cockpit as an ultra-exclusive “ultra business class” private cabin.
Which won’t really be a problem so long as you don’t mind the subwoofer blast…
TpPa
that has to be nerve racking, finally letting go on it's own, after all it's not a 50,000 drone. Good job Boys & Girls!
claudio
Matrix? Really?
Captain Danger
That mannequin looks to be in a world of pain.
Brian M
"It also emphasizes the Army's insistence that any future combat helicopters like the Black Hawk must be pilot-optional or it's not interested"
Wonder how long that philosophy will last as non-man optional helicopters are likely to outperform manned ones, even if it has full optional automated control.
or maybe it's just the conventional helicopter class of aircraft it applies to.
BlueOak
Cool stuff, naysayers aside. Why not make it pilot optional for various appropriate missions? And as a taxpayer, I’d much rather DARPA experiment with less expensive, less battle-ready versions of airframes when appropriate.

However, the following cannot be true what’s the benefit of testing with precious real blood cargo???…

“ the Black Hawk was loaded with a cargo of 400 units of real and simulated human blood weighing 500 lb”