Northrop Grumman to Develop AI Assistance for Black Hawk Pilots

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has contracted Northrop Grumman to develop artificial intelligence (AI) assistance for UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilots.

Under the Perceptually-enabled Task Guidance (PTG) program, the company, in partnership with the University of Central Florida, will develop an augmented reality headset-embedded device to help pilots safely navigate in a range of situations, including in inclement weather and at night.

Upgrade on Current System

Named the Operator and Context Adaptive Reasoning Intuitive Assistant, the prototype headset will be an upgrade over current warning systems that send auditory alerts to aircrew upon sensing the aircraft approaching structures, terrain, people, or an adversary RADAR system.

Citing studies, the manufacturer wrote that the warnings from present crew assistance systems may mentally overburden pilots, who develop “inattentional blindness” towards the alerts.

Northrop Grumman’s prototype AI assistant
Northrop Grumman’s prototype AI assistant will help rotary pilots perform expected and unexpected tasks such as augmenting the crew’s response to an engine fire in this example. Image: Northrop Grumman

AI-Based User Assistance Program

To unburden users and assist them in performing complex physical and mental tasks, DARPA’s PTG program goal is to develop wearable AI-based sensors that allow the assistant to observe what the user is perceiving and “provide feedback and guidance through speech and aligned graphics.” 

Northrop Grumman senior autonomy program manager Erin Cherry said, “The goal of this prototype is to broaden a pilot’s skillset.”

“It will help teach new tasks, aid in the recognition and reduction of errors, improve task completion time, and most importantly, help to prevent catastrophic events.”

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