Helicopter-maker Sikorsky to build pilotless Black Hawk
The helicopter-maker Sikorsky is to build a pilotless Black Hawk aircraft that can see and fly on its own.
(TELEGRAPH) After the unmanned drone, the craft could be the next great aerial innovation for the US armed forces.
Sikorsky has announced a $1 billion venture it hopes will respond to military demand, which includes the Black Hawk helicopters.
The military workhorse, made famous by the book and film after two were shot down in Somalia in 1993, is heavily relied on over the long stretches of mountain and desert in Afghanistan.
The new version of the helicopter would allow it to fly with two, one or even no pilots, increasing the number of journeys it could undertake and reducing the risk to US personnel.
It could be used both “when the mission is really dull or really dangerous”, said Chris Van Buiten, director of Sikorsky Innovations.
The greatest challenge – apart perhaps from calming the nerves of passengers flying without a human at the controls – is transferring technologies currently used in Predator drones to Black Hawks that are 20 times heavier.
Sikorsky intends to have a model of an unmanned Black Hawk ready this year and introduce it by 2015, at an estimated cost of £10.6 million each.
Change would not only be technical, but also cultural, Mr van Buiten said. “Pilots are not going to give up that seat easily,” he said.