Piasecki Aircraft says hardware and software it developed with the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania have allowed for a full-size helicopter to avoid obstacles and automatically chose a landing spot using a self-generated landing path.
The skills are targeting the US military's goal of building an autonomous casualty evacuation helicopter capability.
The companies demostrated the capabilities on Boeing's Unmanned Little Bird (ULB) in Mesa, Arizona.
The helicopter carried a sensor package that includes and inertial sensor and a laser scanner along with mapping and obstacle aviodance software to build real-time 3-d maps of the ground and find obstacles in the helicopter's path.
Piasecki says tests showed that the system could detect 4-in-high pallets, chain link fences, vegetation, people and other objects that could block a potential landing site.
"The system is programmed to select a safe landing site that is closest to a given set of coordinates, such as the location of a casualty or a drop-off point for resupply," says Piasecki.
In terms of obstacle detection and avoidance, Piasecki says the ULB was able to detect and maneuver around a 60ft manlift while flying at a speed of 20kt (pictured above). Flight tests also showed that the sensor package, pictured at left on the ULB, was also able to detect high-tension wires over desert terrain.