The first time we hard about the adaptation of the incredible Kaman K-Max helo to an unmanned role, we weren't sure we believed it... but the recent data coming out of the trials and deployment suggest that this is an idea whose time has come.
Lockheed Martin and Kaman joined forces to adapt the K-MAX to an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of autonomous or remote controlled cargo delivery -- with a specific mission in mind -- battlefield cargo resupply.
The K-MAX UAS allows the Marines to deliver supplies by day or night to precise locations without risk to personnel. It boasts some exceptional capabilities... such as the ability to fly at higher altitudes with a larger payload than any other rotary wing UAS, and via its four hook carousel, the K-MAX UAS has the cojones to deliver more cargo to more locations in just one flight.
It's been a grueling development process... The R&D team has flown the K-MAX UAS nearly 400 hours in autonomous mode since joining forces in 2007. The rugged system can lift and deliver a full 6,000 lbs of cargo at sea level and more than 4,000 pounds at 15,000 ft density altitude. ANN is told that the K-MAX 'continues to exceed expectations' as an unmanned platform' having met all unmanned milestones to date while the piloted bird still continues to build a serious rep in the commercial logging and fire-fighting industries. The aircraft remains optionally piloted for ease of National Airspace Operations, occasional manned mission flexibility, ferry flights, rapid integration of new mission equipment, while allowing rapid return-to-service activities.
To date, the K-Max fleet has accumulated more than 255,000 flight hours since 1994.