Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Sikorsky a contract for Phase 3 of its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program, Lockheed Martin said. The company just completed Phase 1, which was announced last May. The completion was followed promptly by a contract award for Phase 2.
DARPA’s ALIAS program, of which Sikorsky is not the only participant, aims to advance autonomy to reduce pilot workload, augment missions performance, and improve safety and reliability. The end product should be applicable to both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. During the program, Sikorsky has developed its Matrix Technology, which it has successfully integrated into Sikorsky’s Autonomy Research Aircraft (or “SARA” — a modified Sikrosky S-76) and a Cessna Caravan.
An autonomous 30-mi flight marked the completion of Phase 1 for Sikorsky when SARA flew from the company’s Stratford, Connecticut, facility to Robertson Airport in Plainville, Connecticut. Phase 2 involved more flight demonstrations and proving that the autonomous system kit could be removed from platforms and added to new ones without impacting airworthiness. In Phase 3, DARPA said it is interested in exploring intuitive human-machine interface approaches, as well as developing further capabilities developed from the first two phases.
After Sikorsky completed Phase 2, Lockheed Martin hosted a demonstration showing Matrix’s capabilities. A Kaman K-MAX, SARA, and Indago and Desert Hawk 3.1 drones demonstrated their abilities to work collaborative, autonomous missions. Matrix is a capability toolkit that includes hardware and software as well as multi-spectral sensors that enable scalable automation.