An unmanned Little Bird helicopter could fly nap-of-the-earth autonomously using software-enabled control (SEC) technology developed for unmanned air vehicles under a US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and US Air Force Research Laboratory project. The software enables a UAV to fly low, hugging the terrain, determining safe landing zones using vision-based algorithms and avoiding known and pop-up threats. Boeing’s SEC developers are evaluating the Little Bird, based on MD Helicopters’ MD530F Maverick; an unmanned variant of the Robinson R22; and the A160 Hummingbird rotary-wing UAV. SEC is a standards-based middleware that could be used for complex mission management.
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