The program, designated MATRIX Technology, aims to develop, test and field technology to improve the safety and capability of the autonomous, optionally piloted, and piloted vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
Technologies envisaged include those needed to complete complex missions with minimal human oversight and at low altitudes where obstacles abound.
"VTOL pilots increasingly will become mission managers, either on the aircraft or when monitoring from the ground via datalink, because they will feel comfortable letting the aircraft fly itself," said Mark Miller, Sikorsky's vice president of Research & Engineering.
"The game-changing MATRIX Technology we are developing and testing will provide order-of-magnitude improvements in system intelligence and contingency management to ensure high levels of reliability, and ultimately make unmanned missions by helicopters and VTOL aircraft of all sizes highly affordable."
Sikorsky Innovation, which is leading the effort, has acquired and outfitted an S-76 commercial helicopter with fly-by-wire controls to act as a flying lab for rapid flight testing of software and hardware.
Collaborating in the effort is United Technologies Research Center.