As the premier agency when it comes to developing new technologies for military applications, DARPA is working on a computerized program which is meant to aid pilots by taking over tedious tasks.
During a test conducted this October in an S-76B commercial helicopter at Fort Eustis, Virginia, a pilot used only a tablet to tell the aircraft to take off, fly, hover and then land on its own. While ther machine was doing this, the pilot was free to handle other tasks.
DARPA says that the system, called Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) is capable of achieving “rock steady” precision while hovering for instance in adverse winds, a situation which normally would have put a lot of strain on a human pilot.
By taking over the most difficult tasks, pilots are then freed to fight a battle, rescue a stranded human or plan for the next portion of the flight.
“Really, we want the pilot’s eyes and mind on the fight rather than holding an altitude,” said in a statement DARPA’s program manager for ALIAS, Graham Drozeski.
“That’s the core focus of ALIAS: bringing the latest advances from unmanned aircraft into a piloted aircraft through an interface that provides fluid interaction with the autonomous capabilities.”
Following this month’s test, the agency plans to deploy ALIAS into a UH-60 Black Hawk for testing and flight demonstration. This will happen next year, with the goal of possibly making the system a much-needed tool for combat helicopters.