DARPA Banks on Robot Copilots to Help Quell Military Pilot Shortage: The US military has a well-known shortage of pilots — a problem that is exacerbated by aging legacy aircraft that require at least two people in the cockpit — but the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency may have a solution on the way.
DARPA is making headway on two different concepts for robotic copilots that would be able to autonomously operate aircraft and offer advice to the human pilot onboard. In October, the two defense contractors developing those systems, Aurora Flight Sciences and Sikorksy, conducted a series of flight demonstrations ahead of a downselect to a single vendor for the program’s third and final phase.
The impetus behind the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program is to develop a system that can reduce the number of crew onboard manned platforms, going “from two pilots down to one, and then possibly down to zero,” explained Jean Charles-Lede, program manager of DARPA’s tactical technology program office, during a recent briefing.
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