Modern technologies are gradually blurring the line between manned and unmanned aerial vehicles. Thus, during a series of test flights at the US Army Yuma, Arizona, a demonstration mission of the Black Hawk helicopter was carried out in a fully autonomous mode as part of the Project Convergence 2022 (PC22) program.
One of the main goals of the exercise is to prove that helicopters like the Black Hawk can be used both in manned and unmanned versions when the combat situation is too dangerous for the crew, or when it comes to performing simple, routine missions.
The exercise involved a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter equipped with Sikorsky’s MATRIX technology and DARPA’s ALIAS crew automation system. Thanks to them, an ordinary army helicopter has turned into an autonomous aircraft capable, in addition to performing the functions of an autopilot, to respond to emergency situations without human intervention.
During one of the demonstration flights, 400 boxes weighing 228 kg were loaded onto the helicopter, which the crew delivered to the test site, and then left the helicopter, transferring further control to the MATRIX system. In fully autonomous mode, the car flew about 140 km at a speed of 185 km/h and an altitude of 60 m.
At the next stage, a 12-meter cable with an external load of 1180 kg was attached to the UH-60A Black Hawk. After a half-hour flight, the operator gave the device a command to land – the helicopter lowered the load to the ground, landed, and waited for a stretcher with a mannequin imitating the wounded to be loaded on board.
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After that, the helicopter went to the medical center, while the BATDOK health monitoring device on board transmitted real-time information about the condition of the “injured” to the waiting medical team.