U.S. Army pilots exercised supervised autonomy to direct an optionally-piloted helicopter (OPV) through a series of missions, to demonstrate technology developed by Sikorsky and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The series of flights marked the first time that non-Sikorsky pilots operated the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), a modified S-76B commercial helicopter, as an OPV aircraft.
"Future vertical lift aircraft will require robust autonomous and optimally-piloted systems to complete missions and improve safety," said Chris Van Buiten, vice president, Sikorsky Innovations. "We could not be more thrilled to welcome Army aviators to the cockpit to experience first-hand the reliability of optimally-piloted technology developed by the innovative engineers at Sikorsky and DARPA. These aviators experienced the same technology that we are installing and testing on a Black Hawk that will take its first flight over the next several months."
SARA, which has more than 300 hours of autonomous flight, successfully demonstrated the advanced capabilities developed as part of the third phase of DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) programme. The aircraft was operated at different times by pilots on board and pilots on the ground. Sikorsky's MATRIX Technology autonomous software and hardware, which is installed on SARA, executed various scenarios including:
Automated Take Off and Landing: The helicopter autonomously executed take-off, traveled to its destination, and autonomously landed
Obstacle Avoidance: The helicopter's LIDAR and cameras enabled it to detect and avoid unknown objects such as wires, towers and moving vehicles
Automatic Landing Zone Selection: The helicopter's LIDAR sensors determined a safe landing zone
Contour Flight: The helicopter flew low to the ground and behind trees
The recent Mission Software Flight Demonstration was a collaboration with the U.S. Army's Aviation Development Directorate, Sikorsky and DARPA. The Army and DARPA are working with Sikorsky to improve and expand ALIAS capabilities developed as a tailorable autonomy kit for installation in both fixed wing airplanes and helicopters.
Over the next few months, Sikorsky will for the first time fly a Black Hawk equipped with ALIAS. The company is working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to certify ALIAS/MATRIX technology so that it will be available on current and future commercial and military aircraft.
"We're demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly," said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. "We're confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT)."
Through the DARPA ALIAS program, Sikorsky is developing an OPV approach it describes as pilot directed autonomy that will give operators the confidence to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes enabling flight with two, one or zero crew. The program will improve operator decision aiding for manned operations while also enabling both unmanned and reduced crew operations.
Via PR Newswire / Lockheed Martin
Helicopters and personnel from the Royal Canadian Air Force’s 450 and 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadrons completed an exercise on May 22, 2018, to validate their capabilities in anticipation of an eventual deployment of a Task Force to Mali as part of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The pre-deployment preparation achieved the integration of the CH-146 Griffon and CH-147F Chinook helicopters, the validation of the Forward Aeromedical Evacuation capability, and certification of the headquarters team.
The scenarios were designed to prepare the Task Force to operate in a complex environment that mirrored the realities of the peace support operation planned for Mali.
“The advanced tactical aviation capabilities of the Royal Canadian Air Force will make an invaluable contribution to the United Nations Peace Support Operations in Mali,” said Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, commander of the RCAF. “The Task Force is well-equipped and has formed as an effective composite aviation detachment to fully empower our airmen and airwomen to deliver their support to MINUSMA.”
The Task Force will provide two CH-147F Chinook helicopters from 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, based in Petawawa, Ontario, and four CH-146 Griffon helicopters from 408 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, based in Edmonton, Alberta. Aircraft spares could also be made available to the Aviation Detachment.
The CH-146 Griffon helicopters will serve as an armed escort for the Chinooks in Mali as they carry out critical mission requirements as part of MINUSMA. As well, Canadian Armed Forces will provide a number of medically-trained personnel who will facilitate medical evacuations for partners and allied forces on the ground and provide logistical support for the mission.
“The validation of the Forward Aeromedical Evacuation capability and Task Force represents a critical step in our preparations to deploy to Mali,” said Colonel Chris McKenna, commander (designate) of Task Force Mali. “Participation in this exercise ensures that RCAF tactical aviation aircraft and personnel are prepared to uphold the commitment to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, as directed by the Government of Canada.”
On March 19, 2018, Canada announced its commitment to deploy a Task Force made up of medium utility and heavy-lift transport helicopters for up to 12 months to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Planning and preparations have been underway since that time, with a view to deploying the Task Force in August 2018.
Canada’s contribution will join 57 MINUSMA partner countries in their continued efforts to bring sustainable peace and stability to Mali and the Sahel.
At Heli-Expo 2018, Bell introduced the new Bell 407GXi with new avionics, an upgraded engine, and new executive interior design options. Upgrades to the Bell 407GXi include a dual-channel fadec engine with full automatic relight, and enhanced situational awareness through the G1000H NXi.
The Integrated Flight Deck, complete with high-definition displays and faster processors, offers increased brightness and clarity, faster startup and map rendering as well as connectivity to tablets and smartphones.
The Bell 407GXi is outfitted with the new Rolls-Royce M250-C47E/4 dual channel fadec turbine engine delivering exceptional hot and high performance, fuel efficiency and the ability to cruise at 133 kts/246 km/h. Newly designed executive configuration options bring a modernized look and passenger experience to the five-seat club cabin.
Additional options for the 407GXi include the Garmin FlightStream 510 that allows pilots to upload flight plans from smart devices, Garmin SurfaceWatch that provides runway identification and alerting technology, a 3,100-lb. cargo hook, and Health Usage Monitoring (hums) for aircraft system diagnostics.
The Bell 407 GXi has been certified by Transport Canada and the first delivery is scheduled this Spring.