Blog

November 20, 2018

Learn to fly a helicopter in 45 minutes

Rotary flight — that is, flying a helicopter — is supposed to demand months of classwork and hundreds of hours of in-air training.

Simply hovering off the ground is difficult, even if you’re the best multitasker in the world.  You have to know what to do with the collective — the lever that’s mounted on the cabin floor to your left — the throttle, which is a twistable grip on the end of the collective, and the cyclic, which is the “stick” directly in front of your seat.

Meanwhile, you must watch the horizon, watch the instruments, and alternate between pushing down one pedal and then the other to control the tail rotor.

Which makes this story quite surprising

A group from the US Army, including someone who had never before been inside a helicopter, recently took turns flying a Sikorsky S-76B up and over a crowd of people to hover in a nearby field and—then landed the thing— after just 45 minutes of training.


How did they do it? Let’s just say this isn’t your ordinary helicopter.

Partly due to Sikorsky’s Matrix Technology, which is designed to minimize and eventually eliminate the role of the human pilot, and Darpa’s Alias program (that’s the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System), this helicopter can be controlled by a hand-held tablet using familiar gestures or movements.

Basically, if you can fly a helicopter in a video game, you can fly the Sikorsky S-76B. You give orders, and the computer and its algorithm execute them.Though this trial-run had humans on board, it could have been controlled just as easily from the ground, like a remote controlled drone.

Potential applications are too numerous to list, but obviously the technology could be used in a search and rescue situation to rescue people without putting the pilot’s life at risk.

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