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).

This DARPA program will give Army and Marine aviators a robot co-pilot

Army aviators recently ran helicopters through missions with a kind of robot co-pilot for the first time, using technology a company says will be demonstrated in coming months on Black Hawk helicopters.

The pilots directed an ?optionally piloted helicopter? through mission scenarios ranging from obstacle avoidance to contour flight, according to a release.

The pilots used the technology to move a modified commercial helicopter, the S-76B Sikorsky, known as Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft or SARA, through the scenarios designed under a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program with Lockheed Martin.