The future of US Army helicopters: pilots optional

Five years ago, the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter got a digital cockpit and fly-by-wire controls. Starting in 2011, the US Army would like it to perform missions without a pilot at the helm. In a 140-page "Unmanned Aircraft Systems Roadmap" released earlier this month, the Armed Forces reveal that the UH-60, AH-64, CH-47 and OH-58D whirlybirds will all be part of a new aircraft category called Optionally Piloted Vehicles (OPV) -- meaning in future, the flick of a switch will turn them into giant UAVs. If an unmanned Apache gunship makes your boots quake, you're not alone, but you won't truly have reason to fear until 2025. That's when the government estimates half of all Army aircraft will be OPV, and those bots will learn the more deadly behaviors, like swarming. Sikorsky says the unmanned UH-60M will fly later this year; read the full roadmap PDF at our more coverage link.