By: Earnest Jones | 01-09-2017 | News
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr

U.S. Department Of Defense Wants DARPA Tech To Convert Military Aircraft To Drones

The economy is rapidly transforming with the acceleration of automated technology, this started a new trend where humans are being outsourced to robots. This trend is also being adopted by the military. The path was laid out back in 2007 when Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032 was released by the Defense Department, this was followed up with a Roadmap 2013-2038. Ever since, numerous developments and signposts have indicated that autonomous weapons across land, air, and sea will be the foundation of future wars.

DARPA has developed a new technology called ALIAS, this technology has become of interest to the Pentagon since it make work easier and cheaper to produce drones in the battle space. Instead of the conventional development of drones from scratch, ALIAS eliminates a human pilot and insert a robotic control mechanism that “quickly connects to an aircraft’s existing mechanical, electrical, and diagnostic systems.” It is a technology that is now progressing from Phase 2 to Phase 3 with a partnership between DARPA and Lockheed Martin company, Sikorsky.

DARPA released a press conference from December 23, 2016, in which it noted its accomplishments in Phase 2. Phase 2 of ALIAS’ accomplishments included:

The successful flight demo of ALIAS technology in two different Cessna 208 Caravan fixed-wing aircraft, a Diamond DA-42 fixed-wing aircraft, and Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.

The successful ground demo of ALIAS responding to flight contingency events, such as system failures that might necessitate that a pilot deviates from the initial plan. The successful demo of quick tailoring of ALIAS to new platforms, and showing that the installation and removal of the kid hardly impacts airworthiness of the plane involved.

“In Phase 2, we exceeded our original program objectives with two performers, Sikorsky and Aurora Flight Sciences, each of which conducted flight tests on two different aircraft,” said Scott Wierzbanowski, DARPA program manager.

“In Phase 3, we plan to further enhance ALIAS’ ability to respond to contingencies, decrease pilot workload, and adapt to different missions and aircraft types. We’re particularly interested in exploring intuitive human-machine interface approaches—including using handheld devices—that would allow users to interact with and control the ALIAS system more easily. Ultimately, we want to design for and demonstrate the improved ALIAS system across as many as seven previously untested fixed- and rotary wing platforms.”

The U.S. Air Force, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NSA), U.S. Army, and the U.S. Navy have all expressed their interest in ALIAS’s potential capabilities as they continue to give support to the program. DARPA and these stakeholders intend to further the new technology by working in collaboration with the government aerospace and commercial community to probe for any possible transition opportunities.

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