Are there fly-by-wire helicopters?

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The other day at the mall a women was demoing a larger toy helicopter
(maybe 1.5' long). It's flight was rock steady and operation was
trivial. Not bad for a device that retails for $150. A look at the
box mentioned "gyroscope stabilized", meaning $30 worth of nanotech
gyroscopes and a microcontroller were interpreting the controls.

Ignoring the FAA for a moment, is there any reason this fly-by-wire
tech couldn't be applied to real helicopters? It seems like it would
make flight tasks that are now rather challenging straightforward, and
contribute to overall safety.

-- J. Peterson, April 3, 2010


The Blackhawk and some other expensive/military helicopters have stability augmentation systems (SAS) and autopilots that ease the workload of pilots, which is especially useful during instrument flying (autopilot) and external load operations (SAS). For civilian VFR flying it isn't clear why you'd want to pay a huge amount for this help.

-- Philip Greenspun, April 16, 2010