Lockheed’s Robot Helicopters Are So Easy To Fly A 13-Year-Old Could Do It

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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After a mock search and rescue demonstration of a new robot helicopter Nov. 8, Lockheed Martin brought a 13-year-old boy from the crowd to pilot the vehicle.

The Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), a modified version of the S-76 which is widely used by the Coast Guard and air ambulance services, and the K-MAX power-lift helicopter, demonstrated an unmanned search and rescue operation in a simulated wildfire setting. The test demonstrated the system’s ability to locate and put out fires and locate and rescue a missing person, Lockheed said in a press release.

Having a 13-year-old fly the SARA helicopter proved how straightforward the remote piloting technology is, Jon McMillen, part of Lockheed’s business development team, told DefenseNews.


A video from a test of SARA earlier this year shows a pilot controlling the vehicle on a tablet in the cockpit.

“What we were trying to show was the civil utility of how these systems can be pulled together, how they can be used and how they can provide public benefit because, in some of these environments that we are looking at, like today in forest fire scenarios, they are really only fighting fires for eight hours of the day in visible conditions. And in smoky or in night-time conditions unmanned systems could be brought to bear to help greatly reduce the impact and save lives,” McMillen said.

“Each year we spend about $2 billion on fighting wildfires and we see about 20 firefighters that lose their lives and this is a way that we could help reduce that significantly.”

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