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Sikorsky building optionally-piloted variant of Black Hawk

After more than a year of research and design activity, Sikorsky Aircraft is to convert a retired Black Hawk helicopter to create an optionally-piloted system variant.
By Richard Tomkins   |   May 14, 2014 at 1:10 PM

ORLANDO, Fla., May 14 (UPI) -- Sikorsky Aircraft says it is building a prototype UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter equipped with its Matrix Technology for autonomous flight.

The announcement was made this week at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems conference in Florida and follows more than a year of research and design, which resulted in the company and U.S. Army in April demonstrating the ability of a UH-60M Upgrade Optionally Piloted Black Hawk to conduct autonomous flight and autonomous cargo resupply.

"While today we are announcing the creation of a proof-of-concept aircraft, Sikorsky is already prepared to ramp up system conversions per year as demand requires," said Samir Mehta, Sikorsky's president of Defense Systems & Services. "We are considering potential development partners and look forward to working with the Department of Defense and other customers to mature this concept and its associated operations."

Sikorsky said the optionally-pilot Black Hawk variant will involve conversion of a retired UH-60 that will be inducted for the program later this month. During the build, Sikorsky will perform a series of technology maturation tests using an autonomy research aircraft based on the company's S-76 commercial helicopter.

The UH-60 conversion will build on the success of its Matrix Technology and Manned/Unmanned Resupply Aerial Lifter autonomy programs to deliver a new level of mission flexibility to combat and logistic planners. The aircraft will have internal and external cargo capability, be able to lift as much as 9,000 pounds, and have a high cruise speed.

"The autonomous Black Hawk will provide affordable, reliable, high-speed resupply to the warfighter in the harshest conditions at a cost per ton mile that competes with ground convoys," said Mark Miller, vice president of Research & Engineering.

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