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You Can Now Fly A Helicopter With Only 45 Minutes Of Training

Helicopters have been idiot-proofed now thanks to U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Together with Lockheed Martin, they have modified a commercial helicopter so that almost anyone can fly it.

Straightforward Instructions From Your Tablet

“We also had a non-pilot with all of 45 minutes of training take the aircraft up and operate for almost an hour,” said Sikorsky’s autonomy director, Igor Cherepinsky.

The interface to fly the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter is managed by a tablet, it’s interface is called The Matrix. While it’s not as simple as dodging bullets, it can successfully fly a helicopter. While there were still pilots inside just in case during test flights in Virginia, it uses LIDAR cameras to take off, land, avoid obstacles.

But how did this program begin?

The Beginning Of ALIAS

The mission is part of a program developed by DARPA called Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS). The demonstration began in January 2016 with the user tapping basic instructions and the computer doing the rest. When wanting more precision, pilots were able to use a joystick-like “inceptor” to direct the computer rather than having to use both hands and feet. The computer then turned their broad commands into specific adjustments of the controls.

“It’s really like a co-pilot. It can fly routes, it can plan routes, it can execute emergency procedures — and it can do all that perfectly,” said DARPA program manager Graham Drozeski.

Optionally manned missions are just the beginning for DARPA and Lockheed Martin.

The Future Of Self-Driving Helicopters

The $8-million research program is trying to create an optionally manned, not unmanned, flight experience to lessen the pilot’s workload.

Lockheed Martin and DARPA are now working to put together a similar system in a Black Hawk helicopter.

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