BLOOMFIELD, Conn. --- Kaman Aerospace Group is developing a next generation K-MAX unmanned aircraft system (UAS) that will allow operators to have the capability to fly the aircraft on either manned or unmanned missions. Kaman expects to offer unmanned system kits for both new-production and existing K-MAX aircraft in 2020.
Concurrently, Kaman is exploring opportunities to support the U.S. Marine Corps in developing co-use versions of autonomous aerial technologies that will have both commercial and military applications.
"Whether the need is night-time aerial firefighting, resupplying troops in austere environments, or delivering critical supplies in support of humanitarian missions, the next generation of the unmanned K-MAX will continue to demonstrate its unmatched readiness and efficiency no matter the requirement," said Roger Wassmuth, Senior Director of Business Development for Kaman Air Vehicles & MRO Division.
Kaman noted that the unmanned K-MAX has a proven record providing combat support while reducing risks faced by service men and women. In the 33 months that unmanned K-MAXs supported the Marine Corps in Afghanistan on combat resupply and logistical support missions, they moved more than 1.5 million pounds of cargo to remote outposts. Typically operating at night, these unmanned missions replaced the equivalent of 900 convoy vehicles and eliminated 46,000 hours of exposure time to IEDs, direct fire, and other threats to troops on dangerous roads.
"We are excited to take the next step in advancing co-use unmanned capabilities for commercial operators while, at the same time, building on our history in supporting the U.S. military," said Darlene Smith, Vice President and General Manager of Kaman Air Vehicles & MRO Division.
The single-engine, single-seat K-MAX helicopter features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimized for external load operations. It can lift up to 2,722 kilograms (6,000 pounds).