1956 ‘Huey’ Helicopter Famous From The Vietnam War Becomes the World’s Oldest Drone – Will the 41-Ton Boeing 737 Become the World’s Heaviest Drone?

It’s true. Born in 1956, the Huey is now the world’s oldest drone!

The FAA just granted a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Aurora Flight Sciences’ UH-1H helicopter, a conventional piloted helicopter fitted with Aurora’s robotic controls that allows it to fly without a pilot.

The Huey

The Bell UH-1 (nicknamed “Huey“) is a utility military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-blade main and tail rotors. The first member of the prolific Huey family, it was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet a US Army 1952 requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter, and first flew in 1956.

The UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production in 1960 for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been built since.

It was originally designated HU-1, hence the Huey nickname, which has remained in common use, despite the official redesignation to UH-1 in 1962. The UH-1 first saw service in combat operations during the Vietnam War, with around 7,000 helicopters deployed.

 

Aurora Flight Sciences

Aurora Flight Sciences is a US company focused on developing the next generation of advanced, autonomous flight systems for both commercial and government customers.

Aurora converted the Huey to robotic-controlled or OPA operation. As the latest development in the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS) program, Aurora has created the “Autonomy-enabled UH-1,” also known as AEH-1, by adding a complete digital flight control system.

 

Will the Boeing 737 become the World’s Largest Drone?

In a separate project, AFS recently tested a Robotic Co-Pilot developed to fly the 36 m wingspan Boeing 737. The system is designed to act as a co-pilot but is capable of autonomous flight.

See a video of Aurora’s Robotic Copilot Boeing 737-800NG autonomously landing the aircraft safely in the event of pilot incapacitation at the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center flight simulator.

Want to convert your Huey or 737 for robotic flight? Contact Endurance Drones and we’ll try to make it happen.

 

Sources: Aurora’s Optionally-Piloted UH-1H receives Special Airworthiness Certificate from FAA | Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems InternationalAurora Flight Sciences, and Wikipedia.