Aurora's optionally piloted UH-1H. Photo courtesy of Aurora Flight Sciences
Aurora Flight Sciences, a future Boeing company, is developing an optionally piloted Bell Helicopter UH-1H under a U.S. Navy program. For the military research aircraft, the company has received an FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate. The Huey’s autonomy makeover was announced November 2016.
According to the company, the latest certification under FAA Order 8130.34 permits optionally piloted aircraft operation with only a safety pilot required to monitor the controls. The autonomy-enabled UH-1 (AEH-1) is part of the Office of Naval Research’s Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program. Aurora added a complete digital flight control system to the decades-old aircraft design.
AEH-1 acts as a testbed for Aurora’s technologies, allowing for “rapid” development and testing of rotorcraft autonomy and other technologies, according to the company. The Huey has on board Aurora’s Tactical Autonomous Aerial Logistics System (TALOS) and is the third manned aircraft to which Aurora has given autonomy or robotic-controlled capability.