UPDATED: Sikorsky?s Optionally Piloted Black Hawk Makes First Flight, ?Zero-Pilot? Flights Planned for 2020

For the better part of an hour on May 29, one of the oldest existing UH-60 Black Hawks was flown with a full-authority fly-by-wire flight control system that eventually could allow the aircraft to fly without a pilot on board.

Sikorsky has developed a kit that removes all legacy mechanical flight controls from the aircraft and replaces them with its MATRIX technology to make it an optionally piloted vehicle. The company uses the phrase ?optimally piloted vehicle? almost interchangeably because the system can act as a robotic co-pilot to a human operator or enable remote operation from the ground.


U.S. Army Flight Tests Optionally Piloted Helicopter

The U.S. Army has flight-tested the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), a Sikorsky S-76B modified as an optionally piloted vehicle (OPV) demonstrator. This marked the first time that non-Sikorsky pilots had operated the SARA as an OPV aircraft. For the Army?s mission software flight demonstration, the SARA aircraft was controlled from the ground?and was also “flown” by onboard pilots using a tablet and mouse-like inceptor.?The flights were undertaken as part of a collaboration between the U.S. Army?s Aviation Development Directorate, Sikorsky, and DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).