Sikorsky Awarded Contract for Removable Aircraft Automation System

DARPA has completed Phase II of its Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System and has awarded Sikorsky a $35.7 million contract for further testing in Phase III of the ALIAS program, according to a release. Under the agreement, the government will fund roughly $21.3 while Sikorsky provides $14.4 million. ALIAS, in development since 2014, aims to provide “a tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would provide advanced automation to existing aircraft,” according to the agency. Under Phase II, DARPA successfully demonstrated operation of the automation system in “two different Cessna 208 Caravan fixed-wing aircraft, a Diamond DA-42 fixed-wing aircraft, and a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter.” Pilots flew the aircraft by “swiping and tapping” motions on a tablet computer, and the system was successfully moved into and out of multiple aircraft. Phase III, according to DARPA, program manager Scott Wierzbanowski, will involve expanding the number of aircraft ALIAS can be installed into and “exploring intuitive human-machine interface approaches—including using handheld devices.” Central to the project is the ability of ALIAS to plug in and transform a wide variety of existing aircraft into automated systems. “Ultimately, we want to design for and demonstrate the improved ALIAS system across as many as seven previously untested fixed- and rotary-wing platforms,” Wierzbanowski said.