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Black Hawk Helicopter Flies Autonomously
The US Army has made history by successfully testing a flight by an automated Black Hawk helicopter.
There were pilots aboard the aircraft which took to the skies over the Diablo Mountain Range in San Jose, California.
But all manoeuvres were carried out autonomously, with the JUH-60A Black Hawk navigating its way through a 23-mile course of hills and valleys.
Dubbed the RASCAL - Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concept Airborne Laboratory - the aircraft was equipped with a range of technologies, including computers and sensors, for it to operate on its own.
It was able to sense its surrounding terrain, assess risk, avoid obstacles, process statistics, as well as fly autonomously during the two-hour exercise.
The helicopter maintained an altitude of 200 and 400 feet at an average speed of 40 knots and identified a safe landing spot within a forest clearing.
It also approached and hovered at 60 feet during the final phase of the test-flight, organised by the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's Aviation and Missile Centre.
"This was the first time terrain-aware autonomy has been achieved on a Black Hawk," said Lieutenant Colonel Carl Ott, chief of the flight projects office at AMRDEC's aero flight dynamics directorate.