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Unmanned Helicopter Being Developed For U.S. Military

August 27, 2010

Lockheed Martin is developing an unmanned helicopter for the U.S. military designed to lift supplies and equipment to troops in Afghanistan.

The Kaman K-MAX helicopter can fly without a pilot and carry up to 6,000 pounds of cargo, which is more than the aircraft’s empty weight.

The helicopter’s primary use would be to transport equipment to troops at forward operating bases on the frontline.

K-MAX will help reduce the need for large vehicle convoys lowering the risk of soldiers being ambushed or injured by IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

The aircraft can be flown into under-fire areas without risking an aircrew.

A ground-based operator controls the aircraft by using a laptop.  The operator can input a flight plan detailing the destination and route.

K-MAX can also be flown hands-on from the cockpit if necessary and uses counter-rotating intermeshing rotor blades to generate its lifting power.

The helicopter reaches a maximum airspeed of 92 mph and can be programmed to release at different times.

It also flies in weather conditions that normally ground other helicopters. 

K-MAX is being developed for the U.S. Army’s “Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Air Systems” (ATUAS) program.

However, U.S. Marine Corps may also end up using the aircraft.

If testing goes as planned, then the helicopter could be sent to Afghanistan for assessment sometime towards the end of 2011.

Image Caption: The Unmanned K-MAX launches from the pad with a 1500 lb sling load during contractor flight tests at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, January 2010.

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