Black Hawk helicopter flies autonomously for the first time

Black Hawk helicopter.
Black Hawk helicopter. Photo credit Getty Images

At Fort Campbell, Kentucky, a Black Hawk helicopter took its first autonomous flight without a pilot or passengers on board on Saturday.

The chopper was able to fly for 30 minutes on Saturday and again on Monday, according to the Department of Defense's research division, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, CNN reported.

The Black Hawk was a part of the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System program being run by DARPA and is looking to put "removable kits" into already existing aircraft to make them autonomous.

This isn't the first advancement that ALIAS has made as the program has "leveraged the considerable advances in aircraft automation systems over the past 50 years."

In the case of the Black Hawk used to fly on its own, autonomous technology called the Sikorsky MATRIX was installed to complete the test flights. Lockheed Martin is the company behind the technology used.

Stuart Young, the program manager in DARPA's Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement that this could allow for adjusting what pilots can do.

"With reduced workloads pilots can focus on mission management instead of the mechanics," Young said in a statement. "This unique combination of autonomy software and hardware will make flying both smarter and safer."

Young added that using autonomous helicopters will help Army pilots with their missions.

"With ALIAS, the Army will have much more operational flexibility," Young said in the statement. "This includes the ability to operate aircraft at all times of the day or night, with and without pilots, and in a variety of difficult conditions, such as contested, congested, and degraded visual environments."

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images