DARPA developing drop in retrofit to increase automation in existing airplanes

In the latest step in a decades-long process through which automation has taken on increasing responsibilities in the cockpit—allowing pilots to focus on flight tasks demanding their unique capabilities—DARPA has awarded three contracts for its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program. ALIAS envisions a tailorable, drop‐in, removable kit that would enable high levels of automation in existing aircraft and facilitate reduced need for onboard crew. The program intends to leverage the considerable advances that have been made in aircraft automation systems over the past 50 years, as well as the advances that have been made in remotely piloted aircraft technologies, to help shift and refocus pilot workloads, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety.

In Phase 1 of ALIAS, DARPA intends to focus on three critical technology areas:

* Development of minimally invasive interfaces between new automation systems and existing aircraft
* Knowledge acquisition on aircraft operations, to support rapid adaptation of the ALIAS toolkit across different aircraft
* Human-machine interfaces that would enable high-level human supervision instead of requiring pilots’ constant vigilance over lower-level flight maintenance tasks

“Because we want to develop a drop-in system for existing aircraft.

DARPA’s Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program envisions a tailorable, drop‐in, removable kit that would enable the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with reduced onboard crew. In an important step toward that goal, DARPA has awarded prime contracts for Phase 1 of ALIAS to the following companies: Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation (top), Lockheed Martin Corporation (middle) and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (bottom). The photos show the aircraft that each performer plans to use to test its respective technologies in Phase 1.

SOURCES -DARPA

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