Lockheed Martin says it has demonstrated for the first time how its suite of optionally piloted helicopters and small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can work together to successfully locate and extinguish fires, pinpoint the location of a missing person, and bring that person to safety.
During a recent demonstration at the New York UAS test site, the optionally piloted Kaman K-MAX and the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA) engaged in collaborative firefighting and search and rescue with the Indago quadcopter drone and Desert Hawk 3.1 fixed-wing UAS.
The Indago identified hotspots and relayed that information to an operator, who directed the K-MAX to autonomously retrieve water from a nearby pond and drop it onto the fire, thus extinguishing the flames.
The Desert Hawk identified the location of a missing person, and SARA, a modified S-76 commercial helicopter, conducted the search and directed the rescue. According to Lockheed Martin, the Sikorsky MATRIX technology on SARA gives operators the confidence to fly large rotorcraft safely, reliably and affordably as autonomous or optionally piloted aircraft.
Lockheed Martin integrated the MATRIX technology with K-MAX so that SARA and K-MAX could communicate with each other during the demo. Using information provided by K-MAX, SARA autonomously scanned the area and found a safe place to land.
The Federal Aviation Administration UAS test site in New York – headquartered at Griffiss International Airport – also demonstrated progress toward UAS traffic management. The center uses radars and sensors to enable the tracking of manned, unmanned and optionally piloted aircraft.
“UAS traffic management must keep pace with the technology innovations that are bringing helicopters to the sky with a laptop or tablet,” notes Lawrence Brinker, executive director and general counsel of the NUAIR Alliance, which heads the test site. “The progress that has been made through the collaboration of federal agencies and companies like Lockheed Martin will pave the way to help the Federal Aviation Administration safely manage air traffic without onboard pilots.”