The Challenge of Teaching Helicopters to Fly Themselves

WIRED 

In the early hours of January 11, 2000, US Coast Guard helicopter pilot Mark Ward responded to a distress call from a ship taking on water, caught in a Nor'easter off the North Carolina coast. Battling 70-mph winds and 30-foot seas, Ward struggled to keep the chopper steady as he and his crew pulled all five fishermen to safety. Ward recalls the mission as one of the most harrowing is the 22 years he spent as a search-and-rescue pilot. And now, he's got a gig ensuring his successors won't face the same dangers: He's the chief test pilot in Sikorsky's autonomous helicopter program. "Even a modest degree of autonomy, your workload goes way down and your stress and apprehension disappears," he says.

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