Last month, New Yorkers were stunned when a helicopter crashed into a building on a miserable cloudy day. The NTSB report describes the machine as an Agusta A109E, the “Power” edition of the twin-engine helicopter that came standard with an autopilot.
Thus we have a machine with autopilot servos that can manipulate cyclic and collective. The machine came with a glass cockpit so it also should have at least two digital attitude sources (whether the helicopter is pitched up, banked left, etc.). Finally, it almost surely had a GPS receiver and a digital terrain database, which would have included the obstacles of Manhattan.
Media coverage centered on the pilot’s lack of an instrument rating (example: CNN). (In fact, being capable of instrument flight does not help that much unless one is actually planning an IFR flight from airport to airport with established procedures for departure and approach/landing.)
Nobody seems to have asked “If it had autopilot servos, attitude sources, and a GPS, why couldn’t a $10 million helicopter fly itself through the low clouds, away from the buildings, and to the destination? A DJI drone would have been able to do that.”
We expect so much of our phones and so little from our aircraft!