Black Hawk Being Retrofitted to Fly Autonomously

OPV Black Hawk

This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)


The Black Hawk helicopter is one of the more commonly used helicopters to be used in troop transports in western militaries around the world. The helicopter, first developed by Sikorsky in 1974, is in military use by over 25 different countries including the United States, Australia, Colombia, Israel and more. Now, Sikorsky has been updating the Black Hawk to transform it into an Optionally Piloted Vehicle (OPV).

An optionally piloted aircraft is an aircraft that sits in between a UAV and a manned aircraft. OPVs can be operated with a manned crew and they can also be controlled remotely, in some cases even autonomously.

The first step in converting the Black Hawk into an OPV is to retrofit the helicopter’s mechanical controls with electrical and wired flight controls. Sikorsky has managed to completely remove the mechanical flight controls from the Black Hawk, thus allowing the chopper to be controlled remotely.

The first Black Hawk to be retrofitted with electronic wired controls has already taken its first test flight, with reporting that a fully autonomous flight is expected to take place next year.

Sikorsky has been converting their helicopters into OPVs as part of DARPA’s ALIAS (Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System) program, a program intended to increase aircraft automation, thus allowing for flight with minimum aircrew.

An OPV Black Hawk will allow the aircraft to fly with crews of one, two, or even zero people. The technology will reduce pilot’s workloads while improving safety and efficiency by supporting pilots and aircraft operators in decision making.