Pilotless Black Hawk Takes Flight

Cover Art for Left of Boom Episode 4
Left of Boom Episode 4: Pilotless Black Hawk Takes Flight (ft. Igor Cherepinsky)

In 2017 Marines and officials on Quantico, Virginia watched as a UH-1 Huey, the same helicopter that has been flying in some variant since the Vietnam War, took flight. There was one major difference with this flight though: there was no pilot aboard. Retrofitted for autonomy, the Huey got instructions from a lightly trained Marine infantryman armed with a tablet, then headed out on a solo resupply mission, thereby ushering in a new era of flight technology. Sure, at this point, we're familiar with tiny quadcopter drones that hover above sporting events, and even the large and deadly MQ-9 Reaper and others in its category. But this is different. Like driverless cars, this technology in theory could see humans in the passenger seat but out of the loop. It's no coincidence that the military is testing driverless trucks and convoy vehicles at the very same time it's experimenting with these autonomous retrofits for passenger aircraft. In this episode, we speak with Igor Cherepinsky, director of Innovations at Sikorsky, about efforts to develop a pilotless UH-60 Black Hawk, and about the future of unmanned flight. Will military pilots go the way of the dodo?

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Left of Boom:

Hope Hodge Seck 0:00

In 2017 Marines and officials on Quantico, Virginia watched as a UH-1 Huey, the same helicopter that has been flying in some variant since the Vietnam War, took flight. There was one major difference with this flight though: there was no pilot aboard. Retrofitted for autonomy, the Huey got instructions from a lightly trained Marine infantryman armed with a tablet, then headed out on a solo resupply mission, thereby ushering in a new era of flight technology. Sure, at this point, we're familiar with tiny quadcopter drones that hover above sporting events, and even the large and deadly MQ-9 Reaper and others in its category. But this is different. Like driverless cars, this technology in theory could see humans in the passenger seat but out of the loop. It's no coincidence that the military is testing driverless trucks and convoy vehicles at the very same time it's experimenting with these autonomous retrofits for passenger aircraft. Today we're going to hear from Igor Cherepinsky, director of Innovations at Sikorsky, a company now owned by Lockheed Martin Corp. As director of autonomy for Sikorsky, Mr. Cherepinsky was deeply involved in ongoing efforts to develop an optionally manned version of Sikorsky's S-70 helicopter, the rotorcraft on which the UH-60 Blackhawk is based. The first unmanned S-70 is expected to take flight sometime this year. Igor Cherepinsky, welcome to Left of Boom.

Igor Cherepinsky 1:29

Thank you.

Hope Hodge Seck 1:30

First of all, director of innovations is a wonderful job title. What exactly does a director of innovations do?

Igor Cherepinsky 1:38

Well, so I think it's probably the most interesting and funnest job at Sikorsky. I basically get to run a group of very talented people who go out there and design all sorts of new things, the aircraft software ideas, right. We kind of serve as an incubator for new and exciting things here in Sikorsky, developmental prototypes. Flying prototypes, we've actually done quite a few of those and as things mature, hand them off to the rest of the enterprise to develop the products and move on to the next thing.

Hope Hodge Seck 2:09

That's amazing. Can you speak it out to some of the things that you're working on right now?

Igor Cherepinsky 2:13

Sure. So obviously the most visible thing that I'm pretty sure most of your listeners have seen, this is our future vertical list and the extra technology right so a few years ago, we developed the world's fastest helicopter, it was a coaxial versus older aircraft decks do from that to soar greater aircraft and as we wanted to find both our future vertical lift offerings like this today, and as we again got done with those prototypes, they've transitioned to the rest of the enterprise for production ization, and you know, hopefully be replacing our black open in the near future here. We've also worked on then made these technologies right, which is the autonomy part of our technical pillars. With that we'll build a few prototypes. Again, the most visible one being SARA, Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft, it's a blue helicopter with a whole bunch of neat sensors and software that we have been flight testing. We have actually had reporters come and fly it with a tablet, it is so easy to fly. So it's things like that.

Hope Hodge Seck 3:12

Wow. So can you provide an update regarding the current status of Sikorsky-Lockheed efforts to develop this optionally manned version of the S-70 helicopter? And of course, as I understand it, that's the platform that the Army's UH-60 Blackhawk is based on.

Igor Cherepinsky 3:32

Yeah, absolutely. And really, before we dive into that, just really quick I mentioned you know, [inaudible] technologies and autonomy before so for your listeners to understand about, you know, six, seven years ago, as we were starting to look at, what does autonomy mean to Sikorsky and I should say before I had my current role of running innovations, I was responsible for technical leadership of the autonomy billet. So we did a lot of soul searching about what it means for us, right, and especially back then you saw a lot of drones, there was a lot of talk of, you know, removing pilots and all that, you know, sort of buzz, as we looked at products that Sikorsky makes. And again, keep in mind that S-76 which is, you know, 11,000 pound, nine to 12 passenger helicopters are the smallest thing we make. As we looked at those platforms, we said that, you know, flying things with nobody on board is certainly interesting, but where is this technology needed most, and it's really safety, right? We looked at current state of rotorcraft in general, it's no big surprise that a lot of the rotorcraft accidents that occur today occur because of controlled flight into terrain and, you know, pilots encountering degraded visual environment, and it's really not for the lack of training, but because helicopters are very useful, right, in these kinds of missions where they are forced to operate next to obstacles in bad weather. Right? Think of your typical EMS mission where on a moment's notice, you know, rotorcraft is called to an accident scene and the pilot has to deal with you know, chaotic accidents and pick up injured people. Right? They don't really get much of a choice where to land, when to land, they have to go and do that. And they do it really well most of the time, but once in a while they, really the environment gets the better of them, and you know, accidents happen.

Hope Hodge Seck 5:21

I've heard helicopter pilots say that helicopters actually want to crash like you're fighting the bird the whole time.

Igor Cherepinsky 5:28

Yeah, it's you know, they sort of like to say that so so I am a helicopter pilot amongst other things, they are maybe a little more difficult to fly them typical fixed wing but let's be honest, you know, modern rotorcraft is very flyable with proper training and most of the accidents that occur, they occur not because pilots don't know how to fly or couldn't, you know, quote, unquote, fight their way through the machine. Most machines ... Sikorsky and others make a nicely handling aircraft. It really is inability to see, right, really the number one cause is degraded visual environment. You didn't recognize it was a tree there, you're starting to come into the landing zone and didn't realize that there was a pothole or you didn't see that you were drifting slightly to the left, and your wheel digs in, and the helicopter gets rolled over. That's the most, you know, typical thing that occurs, right, which by the way, is not so different from fixed wing aircraft. It just doesn't happen as frequently with fixed wing aircraft because, you know, you're far away from from obstacles and you have time to recover. So that's what we wanted to address, first and foremost, was autonomy. We wanted to slowly take the journey of taking that pilot who is doing a lot of stick and rudder work on top of doing sort of mental math on the mission and say, hey, look, the machine can do most of the flying, if not all the flying and machine can provide you sensors and automation to pick landing zones, you know, avoid obstacles and do all these things that humans have hard time doing. And you the human are really going to do what you do best, which is mission management. Right? Let's be frank: machines are terrible and they really change can't do mission management. They can't design the mission, they can't figure out how to rescue somebody. That's what humans are great for. So what we set out to do is do this pairing between man and machine where humans are really focused on on the mission and how to do the mission. And they're telling the machine what to do. The machine does it and as maybe a little corny as it sounds, but think of Star Trek, right? They have this complex Starship Enterprise being run by a team of you know, six people. And the reason why humans came up with this idea is because it's natural to them, right? So it got, yes, it's science fiction, but our cultural references kind of drove towards that kind of environment where you can operate like that. So that's what we started thinking, that's what we set out to do. First, we demonstrate them again, blue S-76 in our research lab and then the natural progression was to say, Well, now that we're ready for a prototype, let's build a Black Hawk prototype because again, right like, this is one of the most good platforms out there. The U.S. Army has, you know, over two thousand of them, There are there other folks who fly them a lot. So it made natural sense. We got an older aircraft, we actually, UH-60A. It was, you know, made in 1978. And the point there was to show them with the retrofit, this, you know, older vehicle with no digital flight controls and things like that with our kit and demonstrate its performance. So that's what they've done. The aircraft has been out flying for over 100 hours, we've done basic system take-off, and we're progressively going into more and more complex parts of autonomy this year.

Hope Hodge Seck 8:34

Over 100 hours. Wow. So what comes next, when you talk about that progression to different parts of autonomy?

Igor Cherepinsky 8:41

We just got the perception system up and running. So LIDARs, cameras and sensors so the aircraft can see. We're integrating what's called high performance computing. So it's, you know, processors where a lot of our autonomy suite runs on top of the core autonomy flight controls. And that's the flight test that's going to happen next, and then we're going to work our way to actually demonstrating the fact that we can fly this vehicle with no pilots in it. And quite frankly, by the time we get there, it will be more of a, you know, emotional than engineering demonstration because again that this system is full of fly-by-wire today, the crew on board that's upgrading the controls is doing so through the flight or flight controls and the autonomy system anyway for the last hundred hours, but these high level modes, and there are missions that are useful to be able to do without having human in harm's way, right? And I'm sure folks have heard the term you know, dull, dirty, dangerous, so think of either dull or dangerous missions. Sure, lots of pilots don't want to be putting out, you know, fires on the Fukushima nuclear reactor. But by the same token, a lot of pilots would rather do something else than fly routine cargo out as an example. Right. So so this is a case where having an optionally piloted vehicle or you have an aircraft that you can easily, you know, turn from having crew on board but not having to have crew aboard without, you know, pulling in computers, actuators and pistons, but by turning the switches is very useful to a whole bunch of our customers.

Hope Hodge Seck 10:11

So you talked about that emotional component. Basically, when you take the human out entirely, and you've got this aircraft in the air with nobody aboard. There's something inside of us that says, That's not right. That's not safe. It makes me uncomfortable. I mean, this is something that driverless car technology encounters quite a lot. I mean, can you speak to, you know, the process of sort of reassuring and getting people comfortable with this technology and, and dealing with that sort of emotional development and the human relationship to these platforms?

Igor Cherepinsky 10:48

Oh, absolutely. And again, this is where, you know, I absolutely love the culture, at Sikorsky, the and Lockheed, you know, worked here for 20 years. It's really a culture of safety. So first and foremost, everyone makes sure that everything we do is super safe. So, to that extent, right, we fielded a quite a few complex fly-by-wire systems, which sometimes have the same question asked of them, right, 53K helicopters fly by wire, maritime helicopters fly by wire, and these systems are really there to help humans and ease the, frankly the burden of flying that you referred to earlier. We have a whole bunch of very mature processes that the software and hardware goes through to make sure it's safe. And to help humans really deal with the emotional factor, we slowly work our way, right, as a very conservative, you know, flight test organization, we very carefully and deliberately, you know, work our way to these milestones like flying with nobody on board. But quite frankly, when the first flights are very deliberate before this particular prototype flew, right, the S-70 prototype flew, we spent about you know, three to 4000 hours flying it in a full hardware, in the loop laboratory, so we have a, you know, a [inaudible], which is essentially the entire aircraft, you know, in the lab, and everything runs with the flight hardware in the loop and the simulation. So anything and everything that could go wrong gets tested. In fact, we break quite a few things in the lab on purpose. So, our first flights and and flying afterward is boring, right?That's the idea here. So that's that's how we get through, but it's still very emotional right when I'm sure when we get to the milestone of flying this aircraft and we asked our, you know, safety pilot to step away and we'll start remotely off, it will be emotional.

Hope Hodge Seck 12:41

No doubt. And is there a date set for that event yet?

Igor Cherepinsky 12:45

So as you know, as funny things happen this year, yes, there was a date set and things unfortunately are changing as we're dealing with our you know, new and dynamic environment from COVID-19. Obviously still working. We're working very safely, but results and schedule changes, we're still hoping to hit a partial milestone at the end of the year and then achieve, you know, full uninhabited flight sometime next year. But again, you know, I can't predict the future in the current environment, it's hard to say.

Hope Hodge Seck 13:15

Sure. And understandably. So I wanted to talk terminology a little bit. So for the layman. Could you talk about what the different terms mean when you're talking about unmanned versus optionally manned, versus autonomous? And then the term that you've used several times already, fly by wire? What's the difference in the definition of all those terms?

Igor Cherepinsky 13:38

Sure. So we'll start with you know, the simple one perhaps. Well, maybe a simple one to me but nevertheless. So, fly by wire simply refers to the fact that the human inputs, right, let's let's use your car for example, because maybe a little easier, right, the gas pedal in your car used to be connected to the throttle body of the engine with a cable so every time you as a human being press the gas pedal there was a cable on it and it opened the throttle and you know the engine would rev up. The car still had computers in them, like cruise control but if you hit the gas pedal really hard and you decided to [inaudible] the engine, there was nothing that computer could do, right? That was all in you, which is why the cars would have speedometers and all that wonderful stuff. Well, let's say you replace that with a sensor on your gas pedal that's going into the computer, the computer is doing some math and it's commanding an actuator to actually open the throttle body. So now you can take the input from a human you can maybe filter it a little bit so it's not so ragged, you can do limiting so you don't break the engine, things like that. So that is you know, drive by wire, meaning that the input from a human being is going through the computer before going through the actuation system or the things that act on your car, right? Cars today, a lot of cars have gas by wire, have brake by wire, right, in fact, people have gotten so used to antilock brake so we don't think about it. A lot of your younger listeners were never taught when driving a car how to pump the brakes because there's no need to, they just rely on them because they just work right? It's kind of like magical. Well, that is drive by wire. So fly by wire is very similar, we take pilot inputs with the sensors, we run them through the computers, you know, physical and mathematical models. And then those commands go to the actuators. The benefit being is we can simplify the physics again, you mentioned the helicopter, they're hard to fly ... and they are, right, but I can take someone who's somewhat familiar with aerospace and teach him to fly our core fly-by-wire system in about 40 minutes, and then they wouldn't be great to have they won't crash, right? Whereas to fly something like, you know, smaller flights or small items in a helicopter will take a lot longer than that, because in the case of that helicopter, you have to do all the mental math associated with understanding physics and the aerodynamics in the helicopters. With fly by wire, we hide some of that, right, and there's a lot of discussions and debates. How much is appropriate to hide, how much is not. And it really is different in the civil and military markets and we do act differently for civil and military markets, but it allows us adjustability. It also allows safety, right? We can do things like [inaudible] protection, or you can tell the helicopter you'll be making rapid inputs and things like that. So that's fly by wire. And then let's tackle the word autonomy because that's that's another term that's perhaps misunderstood or misused, mispronounced, right? At its core it means doing something autonomously, meaning by itself. Right? So we're really talking about a class of systems that can make a limited set of decisions. And what we mean by decisions is not some of the things that you know get [inaudible] in driverless cars, right? The classic example is, right, what about this car, you're driving down the road and you hit the baby or the Grandma, I'm sure your listeners have heard various variations of this, you know, high level decision. But, you know, yes, that's autonomy. No, we can't implement anything like that yet, I don't know that they've ever implemented anything like that because of, you know, the interesting moral implications of that and other things. But there's a whole bunch of, again, much simpler decisions that computers are pretty qualified to make, again back to the antilock brake system in the car, right your car makes a whole bunch of decisions with ABS, you know, thousands of times per second as to where the wheel is slipping, where to apply braking power and where to do all that. So that's very low-level autonomy. I know it sounds funny because people don't think that they own autonomous cars yet. But in fact, they do. There's a high degree of autonomy in everything we use today. We just don't think of it this way. So that's, you know, in our aircraft today, they're very sophisticated powers of making decisions on you know, approaches and landings and other things, humans obviously still supervising. So as you imagine going out this decision tree, right, you can have the machine make more and more complex decisions, but that's in the sense what the word autonomy means and, you know, at some point, maybe the machine can run a mission, maybe not, again, it's a more esoteric discussion today because systems like that don't really exist.

Hope Hodge Seck 18:06

So for now, what is the current end goal? You know, when you've got this technology matured to the point that that you feel is possible at the moment? What decisions will still be in the purview of humans at that point?

Igor Cherepinsky 18:20

Yeah. So the current end goal is the human specifies a mission and let's think about a simple cargo mission, right? It says, Hey, I have cargo over here. Here's what it consists of. Right? It's so many pallets that need to go from here to there. And the machine says, I understand you have cargo here just to get there, wherever there happens to be, presents a plan to a human being very much like your GPS on the car, where you're saying, Hey, I want to go somewhere, you have a plan, take these roads. You get a plan back, but it's a little more complex because it has takeoffs, landings, it has cargo pickups, the drop-off, but it's a list of things that machine's proposing to do. And you can modify it you can say no, you can say yes. So if you say yes, machine is going to go do it. The neat part here is obstacles, right,as a machine is coming for landing. There's, there's wires. So there's a jeep in the landing zone. The machine says, Hey, I understand that's an obstacle, I'm not going to hit it. Right? That's what you don't have to worry about. Whereas, you know, that's different with today's let's say smaller drones to draw that distinction, right, where you have a remote pilot, the drone, the drone is stabilized, very easy to fly, but the remote pilot was getting video and they are actively involved in actually controlling this vehicle and guiding it. Right. And even some of these drones can follow GPS waypoints. Yes it can follow GPS waypoints like another pilot, but it won't realize that there are obstacles, it won't react to changing conditions, changing aircraft health conditions. Right. So that's sort of the typical, first or second generation unmanned drones. I'm sure there are more sophisticated things out there. But, you know, for the sake of discussion, that hopefully is drawing a clear distinction.

Hope Hodge Seck 19:52

At sort of the general non classified level. Can you speak about the actual technology that allows something like a Black Hawk to be retrofitted for autonomy or unmanned flight? What is the technology that allows that?

Igor Cherepinsky 20:10

Yeah. So again, as you may imagine, it's a whole bunch of sensors, a whole bunch of computers and a whole bunch of actuators. And it sounds kind of silly, but that's what it is. It's things that, you know, allow the pilot on board to provide input, or operator or board, or in the case of what we're doing was the optionally piloted aircraft. Again, if you go look at as having some reporters fly inside our aircraft, we'll give them the tablet, well, it's the same tablet you'd use from inside the aircraft and outside of the aircraft. It doesn't matter where you sit, you can actually go sit in the back of the aircraft, if you prefer to sort of pretend to be a passenger and control the aircraft. You're making these high-level inputs of, Hey, take me here, do this, do that for an aircraft. This is doing it if you're more of a pilot, you can grab things that look like cyclic and collective controls. Again, you're making a simpler computer, but that's a lot more familiar, a little more immediate. You can do that. Then I have a slew of algorithms right together. It's math and physics, running. Some of it is low-level math on how they keep the aerial vehicle stable. Then some of it is more things that are called planners, for example, right? There's a piece of code that understands how to go from point A to point B without hitting things, while respecting what the aircraft can do, right? Very important. We call it kinematically correct planning. Then there's sensors, right with processing multiple LIDARS, radars, cameras, who perceive sort of the picture of the world, things that humans do really well, right, if you're driving along in the car to close your eyes and do that, but if you did, you wouldn't immediately crash, right? Because you have a pretty good mental picture of what's where you kind of keep track of all the cars. You know, you're keeping this world state the world model in your head. Well, we have something very similar for this autonomous system. And oh, by the way, we're also putting a picture of that onto displays on pilots' helmets, so even as you're flying through the degraded visual environment, and you as a pilot can't see the sensors are still working, the autonomy is still working, and it's telling you what it sees. So you can double-check what it's doing even though you know back to the slide, just as a as a benefit, right and then all of that produces control commands right says move the cycle here with collective there and there's actuators, right, electric hydraulic things that make you know, blades move and tail rotors move. And it's basically get you remove a whole bunch of the old mechanical side controls and you put in all of this stuff in and voila, you have an optionally piloted aircraft.

Hope Hodge Seck 22:30

Fascinating. So something else that I've been following closely and parallel with what you all are doing his efforts to develop an unmanned fighter aircraft. So the Navy said earlier this year that I had converted an E/A-18G Growler, which is a variant of the F-18 Hornet into an unmanned aircraft controlled by another manned one in the air. And so it made me curious in terms of what are the differences between developing unmanned technology for something like a utility helicopter and something like a fighter jet. Is it the exact same thing? They just look different in the air? Or is it you know, a whole different set of challenges?

Igor Cherepinsky 23:09

Oh, it's very similar. You know, F/A-18 is not our product, but we do know folks in the Navy who work on that, but I'll tell you this, right, so on this Black Hawk project and a few other projects, we're working with DARPA, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency under a project called DARPA Alias. You can google it to see a whole bunch of demo, but what we have done in this project is use the same system that's flying our Black Hawk and we installed it in a Cessna Caravan and we flew this Cessna Caravan, again with no single pilot operating with an idea it can also be unmanned should any future customer decide to do so. So from the state and actuation computing perspective, the math is obviously vastly different in a fighter jet than in a helicopter, but you know, math can be changed out. A lot of the autonomy is very similar, right? You still have to plan this stuff to see if they'll make some decisions. So it's very similar technology and, and that kind of technology has been developed in a couple of similar areas, urban mobility, folks are doing similar things.

Hope Hodge Seck 24:11

To dream big into the future when it comes to autonomy and optional manning, what do you envision as, as the future of military aviation, say, a decade or even two decades or more into the future? Do you imagine that there will still be sort of a mix of manned and unmanned platforms where the more complex missions, you know, will still have a pilot at the controls? Or do you think that manned piloted aircraft are eventually going to go the way of the horse and buggy?

Igor Cherepinsky 24:44

Well, so again, I may be biased because I already said I'm a pilot, I'm an old pilot but still a pilot. I think, you know, having human eyes on the scene is an important part of what we do, right, both physically and potentially morally especially on the military side. Are we going to have purely unmanned aircraft? Well, yes, we are, right, because we have them today. Right. And, you know, there's no reason to kind of get into the moral questions surrounding some of today's unmanned aircraft. But if you think about, you know, what this technology brings, it's, you know, first and foremost for safety, right. That's why we do this. And again, in both the military and civil world, it's gonna make things safer, you will still, you know, in a lot of cases have to bring human along. And in one capacity or another, right, we've been, we're going to have a discussion whether there will be sort of a conventional stick and rudder in the cockpit in the future, maybe not. Right. They may be really old touchscreen interfaces and all things where the human in the aircraft with the name for the vehicle, the mission they want to do, but they'll still be in the aircraft. I'll tell you this though, in 10 to 15 years, I think every vehicle will have the flexibility of being operated with or without the human being because there's definitely missions where you don't want humans in harm's way. But there's a lot of missions where you need people there for a variety of reasons. So that's I think, you know, larger vehicles like Future Vertical Lift, and again, you know, the Army stated that, you know, FVL will be optionally pilot because again, more flexibility ... and you'll see a lot of companion vehicles which will be purely unmanned, right. So you can imagine, like a Future Vertical Lift aircraft operating with a whole bunch of companion, you know, unmanned aircraft and they also may be large, like almost anything from 500 pounds up to, you know, thousands of pounds of unmanned vehicle and it'll really be more of a manned-unmanned teaming you know, kind of area where we have a few manned aircraft, you know, supervising a whole bunch of unmanned aircraft and they're coming together to to perform a mission.

Hope Hodge Seck 26:49

That's just an incredible visual. We've got the main aircraft and then sort of a cadre of unmanned systems, you know, as their wingman, I guess is the term that I've heard thrown around.

Igor Cherepinsky 27:00

Yeah, there's programs called Loyal Wingman where, you know, the Air Force has looked at unmanned fighter aircraft, you know, with manned fighter aircraft. Still, yeah, that seems to be the, you know, the right mix. And a lot of this really depends on making not just unmanned systems, but even you know, these optionally manned systems extremely safe. Right. So one of the things that have been our sort of tenet, the reason why we like optionally piloted aircraft is because there are those in the industry who would use the fact that there are no people on board as a way to relax the rigor of testing and standards of safety. Right? That's a slippery slope. Because even though you may not have a human on board, you know, any large aircraft still poses, obviously certain, you know, dangers. So that's why we said we're not relaxing any of our rigors or standards. Any optionally piloted vehicle will be designed to carry humans and tested as such and then if they operate with no humans, you end up with this very reliable, you know, uninhabited vehicle for the duration of that mission because its next mission will probably carry humans.

Hope Hodge Seck 28:06

When it comes to the technology and the external factors. Would you feel safer writing in an unmanned rotorcraft or an unmanned ground vehicle?

Igor Cherepinsky 28:17

Yeah, that's a that's a tough call, you know, and again, it depends what you mean by unmanned. The one that's, you know, deciding the entire mission, probably neither; I still want to have some direction control over one, right? Because, as we all know, humans do need to have that ability. And otherwise, each domain has its own challenges, right, the few of my friends who work in the unmanned arena, and they have quite quite a few sets of challenges with, you know, the famous one, Hey, is it a shopping bag rolling down the road? Or is it the real obstacle because today's sensors have a really hard time telling the difference? Right. So on one side, you're going to have unmanned ground vehicles stopping for every piece of grass that happens to roll across the, you know, their path. And then the other hand if you ignore that some really bad things can happen. So that's a difficult question to answer. So right, the flip side on like rotorcraft that operate close to obstacles, you have to be able to detect, you know, tiny things like wires and rebar, which is a very different event. So each remains challenging and it's, it's almost like a race of who gets there first.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:24

Well, this has been an absolutely fascinating conversation. Thank you so much for all your insights and, and the update on what you are working on. Thanks for being with us today.

Igor Cherepinsky 29:34

No problem. Absolutely, my pleasure.

Hope Hodge Seck 29:40

Thanks for joining us once again, Left of Boom. We had a few audio issues this week and I appreciate you're bearing with me as I work with remote guests during a pandemic. We're learning as we go. That's for sure. You heard Igor Cherepinsky discuss FVL or Future Vertical Lift. That's the family of helicopters under development now to replace the Army's workhorse rotorcraft like the Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache, among others. You can learn more about that as well as things like the Sikorsky S-97 Raider, coaxial rotor system and other efforts at Lockheedmartin.com. We're going to be posting new episodes every two weeks, so please hit subscribe so you don't miss an episode. And let us know what you think about the show in the feedback section. Help us out by leaving a five-star review if you can. We also still want to hear from you about future episodes. Who do you want to hear from, and what military hot topics would you like us to tackle next? Let us know by sending us an email at podcast@military.com. And remember to stay up to date on all the news that matters to the military community every day at Military.com.

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