Sikorsky hopes its newly unveiled Matrix technology suite can bring higher autonomy to unmanned aviation missions, actively guiding aircraft through dynamically evolving situations that could be dangerous for pilots or impossible for a normal UAV to negotiate. The company describes Matrix as advanced algorithms that collect situational data and effectively make decisions, literally on the fly, on how to guide an aircraft in an active environment — safely landing a helicopter on a rocking ship, for example. The company believes the system could make possible the option of removing human controllers from the equation altogether. “We’re aiming for much higher levels of intelligence when you can say ‘go get this cargo’ and it does,” Sikorsky chief engineer Igor Cherepinsky told DefenseNews.com.
Before full real-world implementation, however, Sikorsky hopes to hit a target of one failure per 100,000 hours. The company is using an S-76 helicopter as the Matrix testbed, but fixed-wing implementation is not off the table. The S-76 first flew with Matrix on July 26 and Sikorsky hopes to up the test schedule to “at least” one flight per day. The tests are being flown with a pilot onboard to monitor the aircraft and its systems and to step in if needed. If successful, Sikorsky sees the software making flight in sandstorms and landing on moving ships in high seas relatively routine. If successful, the company expects to see Matrix applied first in military applications, particularly by automating cargo movement.