Technology is making a lot of strides as far as autonomy goes. Cars are starting to drive themselves.
Some people may be hesitant to even think about traveling in a car that operates itself. It's a little terrifying, right?
Well, that's nothing, as it turns out. It looks like this concept has been taken one step beyond that with self-flying helicopters.
Would you consider traveling in what's basically a gigantic remote controlled helicopter? Well, it's happening!
The first self-flying commercial helicopter of its kind, a Sikorsky S-76, has made its debut flight from Stratford, Connecticut to Plainville, Connecticut. That's a 30-mile trip and, incredibly, it was all operated by a tablet.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) developed the project for the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program.
"With the advances we've made, the capability for safe, unobtrusive optionally piloted flight is here," said Vice President of Engineering & Technology at Sikorsky, Mark Miller, to Gizmag. "It has the capability of not only reducing aircrew size, but also changing the type and length of training required for safe operation."
This was Phase 1 of the self-flying operation. The purpose was to generate better advances in automation, eventually leading to the elimination of on-board crew members from military and commercial aircrafts altogether.
Phase 2 will soon commence and it will entail more self-flying tests while making improvements to the drone. The goal is to integrate the ALIAS system into different types of aircrafts to demonstrate how it will work.
"The current environment limits the creation of new, optionally piloted platforms," said another Sikorsky executive. "What [we] are demonstrating is the successful and affordable integration of advanced technology onto existing legacy aircraft to not only set the stage for autonomous operations down the road, but also to immediately improve aircraft performance, reduce maintenance costs, and increase crew and passenger safety."
Is this terrifying or awesome? To see how the self-flying Sikorsky S-76 helicopter works, check out the video below.