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Forget Self-Driving Cars: The U.S. Air Force Wants a Self-Flying Helicopter

Michael Peck
Wikimedia Commons

Michael Peck

Security, Americas

Calling Tesla and Google?

Forget Self-Driving Cars: The U.S. Air Force Wants a Self-Flying Helicopter

Call it the U.S. Air Force’s equivalent of Google’s self-driving car.

Except it’s actually a self-flying aircraft.

A new Air Force research project calls for a fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter that can fly itself as it rescues wounded personnel, downed pilots or trapped special operations forces.

The goal is to “develop and demonstrate a low-cost aerial platform capable of transporting two to four military personnel (one in medical litter) with no onboard traditional pilot.” The aircraft should have at least a 100-mile combat radius, have a speed faster than 100 knots, and be able to take off and land at “unprepared locations approximately 50 by 50 feet but no larger than 150 feet for supporting combat search and rescue, personnel recovery, and special operations in the field,” according to the Air Force research solicitation.

The project is being spurred by the expectation that in the future, U.S. forces will be fighting in remote environments in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. “These diverse environments will require operations from new isolated locations, at greater distances, requiring low cost solutions for increasing our options for providing transport of small teams of personnel into and out of harm's way without increasing the number of personnel at risk (the aircrew) needed to move these teams,” the Air Force noted.

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