Sikorsky has two goals in mind for its optionally manned S-70 helicopter: to make the autonomous technology easy to retrofit on existing aircraft for users like the U.S. Army, and to give pilots various modes of autonomy so they can commit more time toward their mission, according to company officials.
Sikorsky's original S-70 helicopter model would become the Army's UH-60 Black Hawk and spawn a family of helicopters used by multiple military services.
The company, now a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp., this week said it's progressing through its flight test program by incorporating more autonomy software and sensors onto the aircraft, with a fully autonomous flight projected sometime in 2020, said Igor Cherepinsky, Sikorsky Director of Autonomy
"We will show the world that this is capable... [of] being operated from the ground sometime next year," Cherepinsky said in a phone call with reporters Monday.
The U.S. Army’s Black Hawk helicopters are less capable for some missions conducted by Afghanistan’s Air Force than the Russian-made ones they’re replacing, according to the Pentagon’s inspector general.
A box of ammunition fell from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and crashed through the roof of Parkland Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, on Thursday afternoon, landing in the middle of a classroom, the Associated Press reports.