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Sikorsky wins new cockpit automation contract
Sikorsky's Autonomy Research Aircraft. © Sikorsky.

Sikorsky wins new cockpit automation contract

Sikorsky has won the contract for Phase 3 of the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) programme, which is led by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The programme is seeking to take advantage of advances in autonomy to reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance, and improve aircraft safety and reliability. DARPA is working with Sikorsky to improve and expand the capabilities developed through a tailorable, drop-in autonomy kit for installation in both fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters.

Phase 2 of the ALIAS programme included:

• Successful flight demonstrations of ALIAS technology installed in two different Cessna 208 Caravan fixed-wing aircraft, a Diamond DA-42 fixed-wing aircraft, and a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.

• Successful ground demonstrations of ALIAS responding to various simulated flight contingency events, such as system failures, that might cause pilots to deviate from pre-set plans or standard courses of action.

• Demonstration of quickly tailoring ALIAS to new platforms, and showing that installation and removal of the kit did not impact airworthiness.

Sikorsky’s Phase 2 demonstration system fits under the cabin floor and within the airframe of both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The system quickly connects to an aircraft’s existing mechanical, electrical, and diagnostic systems. Through ALIAS, the pilot flies the aircraft by means of a tablet computer that recognizes familiar gestures such as swiping and tapping. Pilots can use the same tablet to fly ALIAS-equipped airplanes and helicopters.

Sikorsky successfully integrated its Matrix Technology into Sikorsky's Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) and also on a Cessna Caravan. DARPA ALIAS utilizes Matrix, a capability toolkit that includes hardware and software as well as multi-spectral sensors that enable scalable automation.

Through the DARPA ALIAS programme, Sikorsky is developing systems intelligence designed to allow operators to fly aircraft safely, reliably and affordably in optimally piloted modes with two, one or zero crew. The objective is to improve operator decision-aiding for manned operations while also enabling unmanned operations.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Navy have all expressed interest in ALIAS’ potential capabilities and are providing support to the programme.

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