Black Hawk Pilots Getting Critical Assistance

S-70 Black Hawk helicopter armed with four forward-firing guns, rocket pod and laser-guided missiles (PRNewsfoto/Lockheed Martin)

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)

Rotorcraft aircrews face numerous demands, particularly when flying in close proximity to buildings, terrain, people and from the threat of adversary RADAR systems. Today, simple warning systems are the most common means for aiding a rotorcraft aircrew, such as auditory alerts to increase altitude. These warning systems are limiting and can induce unanticipated cognitive burdens on pilots. Studies have shown that inattentional blindness to such warnings can occur, often making them ineffective for the aircrew.

Artificial intelligence “assistants” embedded in augmented reality headsets may help Black Hawk helicopter pilots “see” critical information to perform tasks and deal with emergencies. 

The prototype will be developed under a new contract awarded by the US DoD Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to Northrop Grumman, in partnership with the University of Central Florida. It is part of the Agency’s Perceptually-enabled Task Guidance (PTG) program.

The Operator and Context Adaptive Reasoning Intuitive Assistant (OCARINA) “will support UH-60 Black Hawk pilots, who fly with both visual and instrumented flight, which varies with weather, time of day and other environmental factors,” Northrop announced.

The assistant will “help teach new tasks, aid in the recognition and reduction of errors, improve task completion time, and most importantly, help to prevent catastrophic events.”

DARPA’s PTG program aims to develop AI technologies to help users perform complex mental and physical tasks. The goal is to provide users of PTG AI assistants with wearable sensors that allow the assistant to observe what the user perceives and know what the user knows. Using advanced information processing and an AR interface, the goal of the program is to have the AI assistant provide feedback and guidance through speech and aligned graphics at the right place and time to augment the aircrew.