It’s often been speculated that in the near future, military aircraft might not need pilots.
Whilst unmanned drones do exist, these are still piloted on the ground by a human operator.
This, however, is a major step towards that autonomous future.
A Black Hawk helicopter recently flew for the first time without needing any kind of pilot assistance at all!
The test took place at the Fort Campbell army installation in Kentucky.
The Black Hawk was modified with Lockheed Martin’s new MATRIX technology.
It also used new tech developed from the US Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program called ALIAS.
The chopper passed all the tests with flying colours!
This included completely autonomous takeoffs and landings and a “simulated obstacle avoidance scenario”.
It was monitored closely by a ground crew during the tests.
Why is this being trialled?
Lockheed Martin believes that it could help pilots carry out complex missions more easily and safely.
“This capability will allow pilots to confidently switch back and forth between autonomy and piloted modes at any point of their mission with the literal flip of a switch,” test pilot Benjamin Williamson said.
“This will support autonomous flight during a wide range of missions such as flight in degraded visual environments (DVE) and confined areas.
“Most critically, ALIAS will be capable of automatically detecting and preventing dangerous situations that lead to accidents, thereby saving lives.”
The tests have been so successful that more applications for MATRIX are being considered.
This could include use in both military and civilian fixed-wing aircraft.