Do you remember the first time you saw a toy, remote-controlled plane or helicopter whirring over your local park. Or better yet, were you lucky enough to unwrap one on your birthday? There’s a good chance you thought it was “The. Coolest. Thing. Ever.” Now imagine if you had been able to control a real-life helicopter: Boeing has developed an optionally-piloted UAV thatreally is The. Coolest. Thing. Ever.
The Unmanned Little Bird H-6U is a helicopter that can be flown with—or without a pilot. Once a pilot programs this deft helicopter with a route, off it goes, explains Christine Cameron, Lead Systems Integrator for the Unmanned Little Bird H-6U. “You can send the aircraft on its mission, and you don’t have to talk to it again.”
The unmanned option makes the H-6U an ideal aircraft for missions that are too dull, dirty or dangerous for a human crew. “When an aircraft flies on its own, you don’t put a pilot in harm’s way,” says Cameron. It also removes pilots from mundane situations that involve repetitive tasks, she explains.
However, when a pilot is necessary or a situation calls for human judgment, the familiar system architecture allows for as much or as little operator intervention that’s needed. The platform is the same reliable aircraft that pilots have been accustomed to for many years.
Based on an extremely agile multi-role helicopter and Boeing’s deep expertise in unmanned systems, the Unmanned Little Bird began with a strong design. From the start of the program to the first flight, Unmanned Little Bird took only nine months to develop. Now this versatile aircraft holds incredible potential. Says Cameron, “This phenomenal little aircraft just keeps on trucking. It’s quite amazing.”