Sikorsky’s Autonomous Black Hawk Helicopter Takes Flight

The addition of optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) technology, built on Sikorsky’s full authority fly-by-wire technology, will enable U.S. Army Black Hawks to fly with reduced crew sizes – even those with zero members.

(Image courtesy: Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a Lockheed Martin Corporation company)

Lockheed Martin Corporation  subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation  tested a new full-authority, fly-by-wire flight control technology kit for the first time on a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk  medium-lift utility helicopter. The flight marked the beginning of the flight test program for the soon-to-be optionally piloted rotorcraft.

Th flight was conducted at Sikorsky’s West Palm Beach, Florida facility. Sikorsky will continue to expand the flight test envelope throughout the summer and achieve fully autonomous flight capability for Blackhawk helicopters in 2020.

The technology kit, referred to as optionally-piloted vehicle (OPV) technology, is an evolution of the company’s previous fly-by-wire technology. It is the first full authority fly-by-wire retrofit kit that involves completely removal of mechanical flight controls from the aircraft. Ultimately, it is designed to reduce the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).

William Kucinski  is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.

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