In May 2016, Lockheed Martin announced the use of a $ 8 million grant to develop an experimental helicopter control automation system. The Sikorsky S-76 model successfully took off, made several circles and landed without a pilot in the cockpit. This was the beginning of the "ALIAS" program, in which any helicopter can be quickly turned into a drone controlled from a tablet.
The Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that flew last year was a production vehicle equipped with a mountable set of equipment. The controls, designed for human anatomy, were equipped with special mechanisms with remote control. For the ALIAS system, new types of interfaces have been developed - audio, video and touch, so that the operator fully feels himself in the pilot's seat and does not lose touch with reality.
As part of the first stage of tests, the Sikorsky S-76 helicopter flew 50 km, following the commands from the tablet, at the second stage, a Cessna 208 airplane was lifted into the air without a pilot. It was a dynamic control exercise, in real time, without the ability to hover in the air and take a breath ... At the third stage, the ALIAS developers want to arrange an "air accident", create emergency situations and test the effectiveness of the system's response to unforeseen circumstances.
Officially, the goal of the ALIAS project is called the achievement of such a level of automation of flying vehicles, in which part of the crew can be safely left on the ground. Or replace the flight engineer with an operator of new, promising military equipment, changing the distribution of the roles of people on board the helicopter. Plus, if the Pentagon is disappointed with innovation, it still has the potential for commercial use.