Forget the zombie apocalypse, before too long we are not going to be able to throw a rock with hitting a drone. The drone apocalypse is upon us! And last week at an Atlanta trade show of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (“AUVSI”), Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation unveiled the mother of them all – an unmanned UH-60 Black Hawk.
Sikorsky is working on a suite of hardware and software that can be retrofitted into any existing variant of the UH-60 (and potentially, any other kind of helicopter) that allows the mechanical control systems to be replaced with fly-by-wire technology. Once the conversion is in place, the helicopter can be flown remotely without needing anyone in the cockpit.
If the company is successful, “pilot optional” aircraft may soon become commonplace. Sikorsky’s goal is to allow for a minimally trained pilot called a “Mission Manager” to sit up front and focus on whatever the mission is, while allowing the system and its remote controller to fly the aircraft. But, it seems clear that the natural flow of such technology will eventually result in a true drone helicopter. A similar system is currently being tested on the S-76.