This is something NASA has been working on for years (I saw the Blackhawk hovering autonomously at NASA Ames in 2008), but it's good to see it actually out in the field.
From Singularity Hub:
The autonomous Blackhawk’s official name is Rotorcraft Airscrew Systems Concept Airborne Laboratory, or RASCAL, and it has just completed its first test flight at the Diablo Mountain Range in San Jose, California. Pilots were actually aboard during the two-hour test flight for an emergency takeover, but turned out they weren’t needed.
RASCAL’s navigation system successfully negotiated an obstacle field with terrain-sensing and statistical processing. It flew within a range of 200 to 400 feet above ground and identified a landing site – a forest clearing – and was able to hover 60 feet above the site within 1-foot accuracy. Risk assessment and threat avoidance tests were also considered a success.
Importantly, the RASCAL was operating on the fly. “No prior knowledge of the terrain was used,” Matthew Whalley, the Army’s Autonomous Rotorcraft Project lead, told Dailytech.
This is very cool. We hear about fixed-wing drones zipping around high in the skies, but here is a fully autonomous helicopter, making its own decisions! I particularly like how, in the live commentary, the pilots weren't entirely sure the specific route it would be taking. They've obviously extended the code a bit in their own APM branch ;)