The U.S. Army is testing an unmanned version of its famous Black Hawk helicopter.
The pilotless, 5-ton drone could one day be used to deliver cargo and supplies to troops autonomously.
The so-called Optionally Piloted Black Hawk (OPBH) Demonstrator, built by defense contractor Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., completed its first test flight on March 11. Ground controllers demonstrated crucial flight operations, and engineers tested the aircraft’s ability to hover over ground autonomously.
“The autonomous Black Hawk helicopter provides the commander with the flexibility to determine crewed or un-crewed operations, increasing sorties while maintaining crew rest requirements,” Mark Miller, vice president of research and engineering at Sikorsky, said in a statement.
Helicopter drones could also help the Army reduce troop size and lower operational costs, Miller added.
“This allows the crew to focus on the more ‘sensitive’ operations, and leaves the critical resupply missions for autonomous operations without increasing fleet size or mix,” Miller said.