Print 7 comment(s) - last by ekv.. on Jan 3 at 1:41 AM

Kaman K-MAX UAV helicopter
US military continues testing a broader range of unmanned aircraft for use in the battlefield

The United States Marine Corps recently started a six-month test of an unmanned helicopter designed to resupply manned missions in Afghanistan. If testing is successful, the USMC hopes to introduce the new helicopters on a limited scale as soon but only after significant testing.

The Lockheed Martin/Kaman-manufactured K-MAX helicopter also has the ability to sling-load cargo from U.S. and NATO bases in Afghanistan, so cargo can be moved quickly off ground.

"We delivered cargo today that was supposed to be delivered by convoy," said Maj. Kyle O'Connor, UAV helicopter squadron commander, in a press release. "Now that convoy has three pallets that it does not have to carry."

The K-MAX is able to carry up to 3.5 tons of supplies and munitions up to 250 miles, and has the ability to auto drop cargo in varying environments. During a "brown out" simulated dust storm -- aimed at replicating Afghanistan's harsh work environment -- cargo was still able to be delivered, according to test personnel.

The Marine Corps and Navy wanted the K-MAX to surpass 6,000 pounds of cargo drops per day for five days, with one mission successfully dropping 3,500 pounds.

The helicopter is designed for transportation, instead of direct confrontations with enemies.

The unmanned helicopter would be a great asset to avoid ground troops resupplying operations, with improvised explosive devices still causing fatalities to ground troops.  Military officials plan to primarily focus at higher elevation and for nighttime unmanned helicopter missions, in an effort to reduce direct small-arms fire.

UAV demand is expected to continue its rise this year, as the need for unmanned aircraft will continue among superior military nations. Throughout the past 24 months, the Pentagon showed increased interest in UAVs, urging each branch to begin training more UAV-specific personnel.

Specifically for UAV helicopters, they could also one day be used in civilian life, but many improvements and modifications would be needed.

Sources: Marine Corps Times, Naval Air Systems Command

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Nice but why does it have a cockpit?
By corduroygt on 1/2/2012 10:58:50 AM , Rating: 2
Conversion of an existing chassis into an UAV or is it also able to be piloted by a human if necessary?

RE: Nice but why does it have a cockpit?
By Obujuwami on 1/2/2012 11:29:52 AM , Rating: 4
Well, you could put a dummy in the cockpit and have the Taliban shoot at him harmlessly as opposed to something the engine or tail.

Even better, lets say Iran hacks (*laughs*) one of these, you just keep about 3 kilos of C-4 in the "cockpit" area and set it to destroy itself in case it leaves the operational area and can't return to the "safe zone" it was programmed to.

Could work......

By ekv on 1/3/2012 1:41:05 AM , Rating: 2
Well, you could put a dummy in the cockpit and have the Taliban shoot at him harmlessly
and if Taliban is shooting at the dummy then the MQ-9 Reaper they didn't see flying above now knows their position. Methinks that'd work better....

By TSS on 1/2/2012 12:44:20 PM , Rating: 3
Logic really. Just because there now no longer needs to be a human present doesn't mean those choppers can suddenly lift a few tonnes more. If you have a chopper made for lifting and you want an UAV for lifting, stick a PC in that chopper = profit.

Being able to fit a human, be it for monitoring, transport or testing purposes, can always be considered handy.

Only attack choppers and aircraft really benifit from a redesign around an AI. Something like a Chinook i don't expect to be redesigned at all wether it's an AI or an Human flying.

By haxxorboi on 1/2/2012 2:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
If I remember correctly, from an earlier article about this UAV, the purpose of the cockpit is to allow a human to pilot the helicopter in case of extreme conditions when remote piloting would be either impractical or prohibitive. Those conditions might perhaps appear with a very tight landing area, exceedingly bad weather, or precious cargo which would be dangerous for the enemy to intercept.

Civilian UAV heli use
By Gondor on 1/2/2012 11:44:12 AM , Rating: 2
Unmanned helicopters (UAVs) are already used in civilian sphere - think of high voltage cable inspections and the like.

By CarbonJoe on 1/2/2012 10:29:02 AM , Rating: 1
I for one welcome our new Skynet overlords.

"It seems as though my state-funded math degree has failed me. Let the lashings commence." -- DailyTech Editor-in-Chief Kristopher Kubicki
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