Sikorsky and DARPA’s Autonomous Black Hawk® Perform Logistics and Rescue Missions Without Pilots Aboard


Uninhabited Black Hawk® helicopter lifts external cargo and
conducts casualty evacuation and medical supply missions

YUMA TESTING GROUND, Arizona., November 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company (NYSE:LMT) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have successfully demonstrated to the U.S. military for the first time how an unmanned Black Hawk helicopter flies autonomously can safely and reliably operate internal and external cargo resupply missions and rescue operation.

Realized October 12, 14 and 18 as part of the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence 2022 (PC22) experiment, the flights show how existing and future manned utility helicopters could one day perform complex missions in a short-crew or autonomous mode. This would give Army commanders and airmen greater flexibility in how and when to use aircraft and pilots, especially in limited visibility or contested environments.

See photos and demonstration video.

why is it important

Sikorsky has partnered with DARPA to develop autonomy technology that will exponentially improve flight safety and efficiency for rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. Sikorsky’s autonomy system, known as MATRIX™ technology, forms the core of DARPA’s ALIAS (Aircrew Labor In-cockpit Automation System) project.

“We believe MATRIX technology is now ready for transition to the military as they seek to upgrade the sustainable 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 under high tempo and high threat 21st Century Security environments where Black Hawk helicopters operate today, and DEFIANT X® and RAIDER X® helicopters could operate in the future. Unmanned or undermanned helicopters could safely perform critical and rescue missions day and night over complex terrain and in contested battlespace. »

Yuma’s Details

During PC22 Technology Gateway, the Sikorsky and DARPA team demonstrated how the optionally piloted Black Hawk helicopter without a human on board can deliver a large amount of unharmed blood product while flying low and quickly above the ground using the pitch to hide his signature; resupply troops with an external charge; and reroute mid-flight to evacuate a casualty.

To begin the flight demonstrations, the pilots flew and landed the Black Hawk aircraft, then activated the MATRIX system to give full control to the flight computer. When the pilots exited, the helicopter autonomously performed the following mission demonstrations:

  • Long-term medical resupply: The Black Hawk plane traveled 83 miles while loaded with 400 units of real and simulated blood, totaling 500 pounds. Upon reaching 40 miles from its initial take-off point, the helicopter descended into a valley as low as 200 feet above the ground at 100 knots.
  • Cargo delivery and casualty evacuation (combined mission): The helicopter took off with a 2,600 pound external load attached to a 40 foot sling and flew at 100 knots for 30 minutes to a designated landing area. During the flight, the helicopter was redirected, simulating a scenario where a threat needed to be neutralized near the main landing site. Sikorsky demonstrated how a ground operator with a secure radio and tablet can take control of the unmanned helicopter, command it to release its sling load, and then land to evacuate a casualty from a nearby place. Once the dummy on a stretcher was secured inside the cabin, the ground operator launched the aircraft. During the return flight, a BATDOK health monitoring device integrated into the helicopter’s communications system relayed the patient’s vital signs in real time to a ground-based medical team.

And after

The PC22 demonstrations were the second series of unmanned Black Hawk flights this year. Sikorsky and DARPA will continue to work to transition this technology for military operations, such as aircrew support and operations, logistics and medical resupply, casualty evacuation, and commercial applications such as counterattack. fires, freight and urban air mobility.

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About Lockheed Martin
Based at Bethesda, MarylandLockheed Martin Corporation is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 114,000 people worldwide and is primarily engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and maintenance of systems, products and advanced technology services.

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