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Unmanned Helo Can Sling It

One of the more promising bits of technology showcased at this year’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Expo is the K-MAX rotary wing cargo drone. It uses the Kaman intermeshing rotor design and lacks a tail rotor and is capable of day and night operations.

As with other drones, such as Predator, a ground station operator can remotely fly the K-MAX via a satellite link. Even better, the K-MAX can be preprogrammed to lift off with multiple loads on its four-hook carousel, fly to remote locations and drop off loads at four different locations.

The unmanned helicopter can lift 4,300 pound loads up to 15,000 ft.; only a Chinook helicopter can lift heavier loads at higher altitudes, said Terry Fogarty, Kaman general manager. In tests at Yuma proving grounds it flew with a 1,500 pound load up to 17,000 ft.

Because loads are carried at the end of a long tether, the K-MAX doesn’t actually touch down, it autonomously comes onto the landing area, when the weight is off the hook as the sling load sets down, the hook opens, drops the load and the helicopter is off to its next location. The Kaman-Lockheed Martin team is also testing air drops.

K-MAX flew for the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in January at Dugway Proving Grounds, Ut., as part of a $860,000 demonstration contract. The Marines plan to deploy two K-MAX helicopters to Afghanistan later this year for operational tests. “We have a system ready to deploy,” said Fogarty. The K-MAX team is also pursuing an Army contract for unmanned delivery.

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