The helicopter flew over a small crowd, “landed in an adjacent field after adjusting to miss a vehicle, and rose up to hover perfectly motionless for several minutes,” according to a DARPA news release . Not exactly dramatic airmanship—except there was no airman at the controls. An Army Blackhawk pilot was controlling the S-76 from a tablet computer while sitting in another aircraft.
Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate, had only first used the tablet three days ago.
“During the hour-long flight demonstration, Ott interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance,” DARPA said. “Before climbing in the cockpit, Ott practiced the mission plan with the ALIAS simulator, a tool that could help reduce mission planning and preparation time for future operators, allowing them to rehearse maneuvers in advance.”
The Army calls this Mission Adaptive Autonomy. “It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role,” Ott said. “But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly.”
DARPA envisions a kit that can quickly add a robot co-pilot to any manned aircraft. The ALIAS project is entering its final phase, as Blackhawk manufacturer Sikorsky begins integrating the system into a UH-60 for a 2019 flight test.
One question about the project is which aircraft this will benefit. For aircraft such as cargo planes, tankers and helicopters performing routine tasks, this could be useful. For example, DARPA notes that hovering in adverse winds demands a helicopter pilot’s attention, but a computer can do it with precision while leaving the pilot free to concentrate on other tasks. But for a jet fighter in combat, which tasks are routine enough for a machine to take over? Maintaining speed and altitude? Taking evasive action?
But what’s really interesting isn’t how revolutionary ALIAS is, but evolutionary. Airline flights are already under automated control for much of their time in the air, with the human pilot taking over during key portions such as takeoff, landing and bad weather. A robot co-pilot is just the next step.
Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook .
Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran atIron Mountain. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Iron Mountain is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.
Jackie Melendrez couldn't be prouder of her husband, her sons, and the fact that she works for the trucking company Iron Mountain. This regional router has been a Mountaineer since 2017, and says the support she receives as a military spouse and mother is unparalleled.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 40-foot-tall (12 meters) cross-shaped war memorial standing on public land in Maryland does not constitute government endorsement of religion, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a decision that leaves unanswered questions about the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.
The justices were divided on many of the legal issues but the vote was 7-2 to overturn a lower court ruling that had declared the so-called Peace Cross in Bladensburg unconstitutional in a legal challenge mounted by the American Humanist Association, a group that advocates for secular governance. The concrete cross was erected in 1925 as a memorial to troops killed in World War One.
The ruling made it clear that a long-standing monument in the shape of a Christian cross on public land was permissible but the justices were divided over whether other types of religious displays and symbols on government property would be allowed. Those issues are likely to come before the court in future cases.
A Navy SEAL combat medic called as a witness in the trial of Chief Eddie Gallagher claims that it was he, not Gallagher, who was responsible for the death of the ISIS prisoner in Iraq, dealing a massive blow to the U.S. government's case against Gallagher.