Last Tuesday, storied helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky announced a significant addition to its research and development portfolio, unveiling a multi-year initiative to develop technology for autonomous helicopter flight. The Matrix Technology program isn't just about building an unmanned helicopter that can be programmed to fly itself, company execs say. It will allow helicopters to be controlled remotely, or will allow pilots onboard to perform other flight-related tasks while the aircraft handles the low-level piloting of the helicopter.
In the vision put forth by the Matrix program, pilots will become more like mission managers that will be able to conduct their duties either from the ground or from aboard the aircraft.
A surveillance drone that covers 2 million square miles at a time means that around-the-clock maritime surveillance isn't far off.