Dec. 7, 2012 at 1:32 PM ET
Pilot down? No problem. The U.S. Army has equipped a Black Hawk helicopter with the computer smarts to fly autonomously. In a recent low-level flight test, pilots were onboard, but left the flying to the helicopter. It performed flawlessly, the military said.
During the two-hour flight over the Diablo Mountain range east of San Jose, Calif., the war-fighting machine proved it could sense terrain, assess risks and avoid potential threats.
Throughout the flight, the helicopter maintained an altitude between 200 and 400 feet above the ground. Its final task was to pick a landing spot within a forest clearing and lower itself to a hover just 60 feet above the ground. It was accurate to within a foot, the military said.
“This was the first time terrain-aware autonomy has been achieved on a Black Hawk,” Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of the Flight Project Office at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Aviation and Missile Center, said in a news release.
The feat is the latest move by the Pentagon to put robots to work on the battlefield in a bid to save human lives and make war-fighting more efficient. But the development comes with grave risk, Human Rights Watch recently noted in its call for a ban on fully autonomous robots before they go berserk and kill innocent bystanders.
You can check out the helicopter flight in the video below.
– via AOL