April 17, 2014
On Tuesday March 25th, SARA, the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft, reached yet another milestone as the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) granted a new type of experimental certificate – Optionally Piloted Vehicle Experimental Certificate for the aircraft. The event was a key step in the process as SARA makes her way to full autonomous flight.
SARA just before she flew with FAA eyes watching
Members of the FAA were fixated on the aircraft for a few hours as they reviewed all the one-of-a kind technology that is being used in the helicopter. More than just the look of the helicopter, the FAA was presented data that proved SARA is fully capable of flying ‘pilot optional’.
Members of the FAA inspect SARA at Sikorsky’s AAG hangar
“This step opens the doors for SARA to start engaging in developmental missions in the New York and Connecticut area,” said Igor Cherepinsky, Chief Engineer for Sikorsky’s Autonomy Program.
Recently, Phase 2 was launched as sensors were added to the aircraft giving her eyes to perceive the environment in which she is flying, and making her fully capable of identifying a suitable landing zones, avoiding obstacles and performing other perception intensive tasks.
Members of Sikorsky and the FAA gather as the certificate of airworthiness is signed
The Sikorsky Innovations team is excited about what’s in store this year. “Now, equipped with the FAA’s certificate, Phase 2-B will begin, allowing the team to run experimental-type medical evacuation missions as well as engaging in ship board operations and landings, autonomously,” Cherepinsky said.