Pilot will still control the helicopter, but unmanned technology could be used for additional tasks

The U.S. Army is looking to transform some of its helicopters into unmanned aerial vehicles, as the military looks for realistic methods to have its helicopters "optionally manned."

The option of transforming helicopters to UAVs would be cheaper for the government than purchasing new aircraft.  Specifically, the Army believes the following helicopters would be the easiest to transform:  CH-47F Chinook, AH-64D Apache Longbow, and the UH-60M helicopter.

As helicopters remain a vital tool in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials also have an interest in having the helicopters take off and land autonomously.  However, it's unlikely the weapons system on any Army helicopters will be able to fire without a soldier pulling the trigger.

If these semi-autonomous helicopters do not help save money, however, the idea could be scrapped immediately.  The 140-page "strategic vision" document was supported by Col. Christopher Carlile, Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence director.  

As mentioned by earlier military officials, the technology is designed to better aid pilots and crew members, not replace them.  Furthermore, the helicopters that use autonomous aid will be chosen for select missions, and won’t randomly fly into combat situations.

The use of UAVs as reconnaissance or attack drones has increased dramatically in the Middle East, with missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The drone technology will be shared with Pakistan and other select nations, as more nations research unmanned technology.

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