Franco-German manufacturer comes to surprise the aeronautical world in realizing a first public demonstration of a fully automated helicopter. The manufacturer has chosen an EC145 to make April 25 this demonstration out of the ordinary at Istres flight. For the first time in public, the helicopter carried out a mission of supply type, 40 min flight during which this banal appearance EC145 directed the transport of goods under Sling but without no pilot is on board.
Industrial conducted this research program baptized AFlight on its own funds and in the greatest secrecy. It intends to propose this ‘control mode ‘ robotic as an option to all its range models that already have an autopilot sufficiently evolved. This is the concept of OPV: Optionally Piloted Vehicle.
A paradoxically simpler system than a autonomous car
The scenario demonstrated by Eurocopter in Istres looks devilishly at this practical already US Army in Afghanistan where its K – Max helicopter supply bases advanced without having to expose land vehicles to the risks of bombs placed on roads. The magazine Air & Cosmos of 3 may revealed that the theft of 25 April was only the third test, Eurocopter started his AFlight from April 12 flights, in the greatest secrecy. The flight is automatic, but a pilot on the ground has a vision of the instruments and the environment around the appliance via multiple cameras, including an infrared camera. In unexpected situations, he can take control at distance from the camera. Similarly, the image of the American K – Max, an operator at the point of supply will take hand and manually move the machine when it occurs at the point of stationary air-to-air refuelling. This is greatly simplifying the electronics and intelligence need to embark on the device that turns out in the end much simpler than a Google Car robot which analyzes permanently its environment to do not spill pedestrian or Grill fire.
According to Volker Bau, one of the pilots of the April 25 cited in Air & Cosmos, test the miniaturized system would fit in one box of 100 kilograms since it will come is plugger on auto-pilot 4 axes already fitted to the appliance. Currently, the electronics holds a good part of the rear seats of the EC145.
In addition to the military, civilian applications can be considered for these helicopters dronises, whose intervention on radioactive sites in the event of disaster. It is the home by fleets of helicopter operators who will tell if Eurocopter will this drone option to its catalog in the coming months.