The autonomous future is here, people. Recently Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences conducted a series of autonomous flights of a UH-1 Huey outfitted with autonomous systems. The idea is to be able to use helicopter for resupply or cargo missions without having to put a human pilot in harm’s way in the process, and Aurora said it successfully accomplished that objective.
Some might argue the ultimate goal has less to do with risk and more to do with cost, though Boeing isn't talking about it in those terms, at least not yet. The flights were conducted as part of a technology demonstration for the United States Naval Research Center, with the flying done at Quantico Urban Training Center in Virginia, but the technology is by nature portable, and the missions that Aurora demonstrated for the military, resupply and cargo carrying, were the same kinds of missions that civilian aircraft perform every day on thousands of flights. Moreover, with it being more expensive for the military to train pilots and harder for it to keep them around, autonomous aircraft have an obvious appeal, and industry experts say that they expect the scope of such autonomous programs to expand to cover more kinds of flying and more kinds of aircraft. We expect to hear more about such similar programs from Boeing and other aerospace companies--Airbus has already taken the pole position in the fledgling autonomous flight sector, but we expect that there's a lot of behind the scenes research being done by dozens of major defense and aerospace companies around the world.
Learn more at Aurora Flight Sciences.