A US Marine Corps unmanned K-MAX helicopter has performed a successful demonstration of re-supplying troops at forward operating bases in Afghanistan.
The test was conducted by a team formed by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace Corporation.
Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Sensors Aviation Systems’ vice president Dan Spoor said the system performed a rigorous set of cargo re-supply scenarios as programmed, allowing the ground-based operator to monitor progress, and make adjustments to aircraft positioning only when requested by the Marine Corps for demonstration purposes.
During the demo, the K-MAX hovered at 12,000ft with a 1,500lb sling load, and delivered 3,000lb of cargo, within six hours to a forward operating base in two 150nm round-trip flights.
A remotely controlled flight and precision load delivery by a ground-based operator in both day and night conditions, as well as uploading a new mission plan to the aircraft’s mission management system during flight, were also part of the K-MAX demonstration.
During the demonstration, the unmanned K-MAX helicopter’s four-hook carousel, which enables multi-load deliveries in a single flight, was also displayed.
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The K-MAX helicopter lifted a total cargo of 3,450lb, and flew to three pre-programmed delivery coordinates, while autonomously releasing a sling load at each location.
The fourth load delivery of the K-MAX helicopter was performed under manual control by the ground operator.
Kaman Helicopters president Sal Bordonaro said this capability gives the US Marine Corps a proven unmanned power lifter to bring vital cargo to troops on the battlefield without the need for ground vehicles and manned helicopters.
The K-MAX demonstration was part of a $860,000 contract, awarded by the US Marine Corps to Kaman Aerospace in August 2009.
Prior to this demo, the K-MAX has demonstrated an autonomous and remote control flight over both line-of-sight and satellite-based beyond line-of-sight data link.
The autonomous and remote control flight was demonstrated during a series of flights in subfreezing temperatures at the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, UT.