The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

It is actually far more difficult for a large ordinary helicopter to complete the AI ​​full automatic driving than the AI ​​full automatic driving of a car and a large fixed-wing aircraft.

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

[Introduction] On February 9, 2022, DARPA announced that the Black Hawk helicopter equipped with the intelligent AI pilot assistant system ALIAS completed a 30-minute fully automatic flight without intervention. This length of unmanned test flight is the first in the world to be applied to a non-specialized ordinary helicopter of this size.

Unmanned helicopters are not new for a long time, but the unmanned helicopters on the market now have to be remotely controlled, the second is no larger than the Hummingbird level, and the third is specially made.

Can a large, non-specialized ordinary helicopter weighing six or seven tons be installed with a plug-and-play AI model package to fly completely unmanned? This was impossible before, but recently Sikorsky broke the record.

Ordinary large helicopter successfully flew for half an hour for the first time

On February 9, 2022, Beijing time, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced that a UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter equipped with the “cockpit crew automation system” (ALIAS), February 5 At the experimental base in Kentucky, the ALIAS system completed a 30-minute fully unmanned fully automatic flight. A slightly shorter test flight was performed at the same location on February 7. 

The half-hour unmanned test flight is the world’s first for a non-specialized ordinary helicopter weighing more than 6.3 tons. The test flight marks another milestone in Black Hawk maker Sikorsky’s $160 million Smart Helicopter Pilot Assistant program with the U.S. official. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

According to Igur Cheribinski, Sikorsky’s vice president for the project, the “210” switch in the Black Hawk helicopter marked the presence of several crew members, and February 5 marked the history of the aircraft. The first switch is set to 0. 

Within 30 minutes, the ALIAS system successfully completed the self-inspection, take-off, automatic flight, automatic landing and other actions of the airborne equipment before take-off, and there were no accidents or failures in the whole process. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

Moreover, the ALIAS system that controls the flight of the Black Hawk helicopter is working in a difficult software simulation environment this time. 

The self-driving lidar test program simulates New York City’s complex, crowded low-altitude airspace. The ALIAS system controls the helicopter to smoothly shuttle between the skyscrapers in Manhattan Island in the virtual environment in real time. This is equivalent to letting AI drive a helicopter to complete a high-speed obstacle race, and the difficulty can be imagined. 

How the ALIAS system does it

Flight assistance systems for large fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters have been around for decades and are not new. It is well known that pilots of large airliners on many flights only need to be involved within minutes of takeoff and landing. 

However, in addition to take-off and landing, human pilots are also required to respond to sudden machine failures, sudden weather changes, and complex terrain flight operations. The assistance system does not have the capability in this regard. 

Sikorsky aims to create a “virtual version of the intelligent co-pilot” based on its own civilian version of the “Matrix” smart helicopter flight assistant program and the ALIAS system developed for the US Department of Defense. Let AI assistants automatically perform auxiliary operations during dangerous and complex flight missions without interfering with the human primary pilot. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

2018 Sikorsky civilian version of the intelligent AI helicopter short-range test flight 

Designed by Sikorsky and DARPA, the ALIAS system is a custom product that can be adjusted and installed on existing aircraft models or removed from the airframe at any time. This enables a high level of automation for existing aircraft and a reduction in the number of crew members without the cost of large-scale retrofitting or obsolescence of existing aircraft. 

In addition, when the human main pilot loses the control ability due to various reasons, the ALIAS system also has a short-term emergency takeover control ability. Therefore, in addition to the necessary driving action functions, ALIAS will monitor the physical performance of the fuselage, the state of the electronic control program, and the navigation environment in real time. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

In past test flights, DARPA also let ALIAS simulate various emergency situations that may occur in flight, such as pilot incapacitation, deviation from course, violation of flight manual operation, and airframe system failure, etc., ALIAS Both performed well in simulation. 

In order to meet these requirements and adapt to various scenarios, ALIAS has machine learning functions, and the algorithm has a wider range of learning. Not only from the historical data of the aircraft operated by itself, but also from the entire previous flight data records of the aircraft under control. And its machine learning is real-time and can be performed while learning, so that learned options can be invoked in various emergency situations. 

ALIAS has a human interaction interface mounted on a tablet device, which users can use to monitor detailed system information or perform operational interventions. In 2021, Sikorsky will let the active-duty pilots in the U.S. military serve as the reserve safety pilots on the plane, and simply use the flat-panel monitoring, and let ALIAS control the special experimental helicopter to complete a short-term fully automatic flight. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

In 2021, safety pilots use tablet devices to supervise the scene of ALIAS system driving helicopters 

How hard is it for AI to fly a helicopter?

It is actually far more difficult for a large ordinary helicopter to complete the AI ​​full automatic driving than the AI ​​full automatic driving of a car and a large fixed-wing aircraft. 

In 2004, Stanford University AI Lab’s famous foundational paper in this field, “Achieving Helicopter Automatic Flight with Reinforcement Learning”, pointed out that the aerodynamic model and force model of helicopters are far more complicated than fixed-wing aircraft of the same size: 

The vertical and horizontal propellers provide lift, but the torque generated is in conflict with the torque excited by the fuselage itself, which is easy to cause the fuselage to fall into an uncontrollable stall and sway; the vertical and longitudinal propellers are used to control the direction and provide stability. However, It will cause the body to fall into the left-right imbalance between the aerodynamic model and the force. 

The above is just an overview of the most basic large helicopter flight physics, and these situations are more prominent at lower altitudes and lower speeds. Therefore, in the first few sentences of the text of the Stanford AI Lab’s 2004 paper, the adjectives describing helicopter flight control are “high-dimensional, complex, asymmetric, high-noise, nonlinear, dynamic…”. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

Nearly 20 years later, in order to solve these problems, Sikorsky’s software engineers reversed their thinking: if it is impossible for a high-end AI model with high complexity and a large number of parameters to completely solve these obstacles, then use low-complexity, A simple and small-scale low-end AI block solution is a more feasible and economical way, and it is also more in line with customer requirements. Originally, the US government does not expect helicopters to become the Terminator in seconds. 

Therefore, according to the manufacturer’s admission, ALIAS’s pattern recognition and machine learning algorithms rely more on defined and highly predictable data, and pay less attention to the prediction functions commonly used by high-end AI large models. As for the specific code process, the confidential details of the US official project have not yet been announced in the public paper… 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

This leads to another problem that intelligent driving cars do not face: unpredictable, unlabeled obstacles in the navigation environment. 

After all, smart cars have to slam into street lights even in urban environments with high-precision marked maps. The telecommunication signal towers that the telecommunications companies combed by themselves in the field are often not marked on the map in time. Although the specific number of accidents has not been announced, according to the tone of the Sikorsky insider’s interview, there are quite a few in the helicopter AI co-pilot experiment. The second “tower” collision occurred. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? Northrop Grumman to do helicopter AR flight assistant

Sikorsky is not the only company engaged in AI helicopter co-pilots. Northrop Grumman has also recently received an order from the US government to develop an intelligent helicopter flight assistant based on AR technology and AI recognition. 

The project of this intelligent flight assistant is tentatively named OCARINA (which is the abbreviation of Operator and Context Adaptive Reasoning Intuitive Assistant). It is much simpler than driving a plane completely, and the replacement is only the various alarms in the electronic control system of the helicopter. with message prompt. 

Now, when helicopter pilots encounter sudden terrain obstacles and weather obstacles, they will only receive pre-recorded warning sounds and pictures in the headset and on the dashboard. The more urgent the situation, the more complicated the various prompts, the more chaotic the pilot, and finally had to fall. 

What OCARINA wants to do is to use the AR headset worn by the pilot, combined with eye tracking, data monitoring and other technologies, to let the AI ​​assistant handle the minor faults that can be solved by itself, hide the prompts, and need manual operation, and then use the AR field of view. in a way that does not interfere with cognition to remind the pilot of the action. 

The Metaverse helps fly the helicopter? ALIAS system fully self-driving Black Hawk for 30 minutes

Northrop Grumman’s OCARINA concept map: In the whole process from the helicopter’s attitude can not be corrected to the confirmation of the engine fire, AI is responsible for most of the judgment, and only prompts the pilot to make one action 

Although AI can now drive ordinary helicopters, this is just the beginning, and the role of human pilots is a great help rather than a large replacement. So don’t repeat the Terminator, rest assured. 

References:

https://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-news-sikorsky-unmanned-black-hawk-20220208-fmrvocn6wnbdlo5i6r3tn3e42a-story.html 

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/sikorsky-matrix-technology.html 

https://www.defensenews.com/land/2022/02/08/black-hawk-helicopter-flies-unmanned-for-the-first-time/ 

https://www.darpa.mil/program/aircrew-labor-in-cockpit-automation-system 

https://www.thedefensepost.com/2022/02/03/northrop-grumman-black-hawk-ai/ 

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2021/sikorsky-and-darpa-fly-opv-black-hawk-with-supervised-autonomy.html 

http://heli.stanford.edu/papers/iser04-invertedflight.pdf 

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