Lockheed Martin And Kaman Aerospace Demonstrate Unmanned Supply Helicopter To U.S. Army
Ft. Eustis, VA, 06/05/2008 -- Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] and Kaman Aerospace Corporation have demonstrated to the U.S. Army and Marine Corps the feasibility of transporting supplies to ground troops by an unmanned helicopter.
During 45 minutes of operation at Ft. Eustis, VA, an unmanned K-MAX® helicopter demonstrated autonomous take-off and landing, pick-up and delivery of a 3,000-pound sling load, and the ability to autonomously re-plan and detour from its designated route to accommodate changes to mission requirements and battlefield threats. The demonstration also illustrated the ability of a single ground operator to use both spoken and data commands to control the aircraft via data link, perform precision maneuvers at the pick-up or drop zones, and easily transfer control to another ground operator for maximum interoperability.
Our objective was to show the Army that we have successfully integrated Lockheed Martin's mission management technology with a proven aerial lift helicopter to take on the routine but often dangerous work of re-supplying troops, said Michele Evans, Modernization and Sustainment vice president at Lockheed Martin Systems Integration in Owego, NY. Our mission management technology gives the unmanned K-MAX a high level of system autonomy and intelligence to meet operational objectives with minimal human oversight.
The April 23 demonstration was attended by representatives of the Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD), the Combined Arms Support Command, the Training and Doctrine Command, Aviation & Missile Research, Development & Engineering Center and the Marine Corps Development Command.
The U.S. Army is interested to see how industry has adapted manned/unmanned teaming technology - originally developed for aerial scouting operations - for unmanned cargo re-supply by a vertical take-off and landing aircraft, said Ray Wall, chief of AATD's Systems Integration division. Successful expansion of this technology into Afghanistan and Iraq would help alleviate the high operational demand for Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters, which are forced to carry supplies when their greater priority is to carry troops and other personnel.
The K-MAX unmanned aerial system was controlled by Lockheed Martin's KineForce™ mission management system, which is designed to translate the ground controller's objectives into mission executable plans, provide autonomous flight control capability, understand the dynamic battlefield environment, and react to threats. To command and control the K-MAX, a ground controller used a hand-held tablet computer - compatible with a common interface system used by the U.S. Army for control of unmanned aerial vehicles - to define the mission plan and monitor the aircraft during flight.
The Kaman designed-and-built K-MAX helicopter features a unique intermeshing rotor system that eliminates the need for a tail rotor, directing all of the power from the Honeywell T5317A-1 gas turbine engine to the main rotors. The design gives the aircraft a one-to-one lift ratio, enabling the K-MAX aircraft to lift up to 6,000 pounds - more than the aircraft's own weight - and providing superior high altitude and hot environment performance and low noise signature. Currently flown as a manned power lifter by the logging and construction industries, the aircraft has low operating costs per flight hour, and has maintained a high reliability rate over more than 225,000 flight hours in demanding environments.
This prototype demonstration showed just a small sample of the potential for a rotary wing unmanned air system that has a lift capacity of 6,000 pounds, said Sal Bordonaro, President, Kaman Helicopters Division. We believe this UAS could be used for any number of existing missions that are currently being flown by manned assets, and that the cost savings resulting from the use of the unmanned K-MAX would be recognized immediately.
Kaman Aerospace, a subsidiary of Kaman Corporation [NASDAQ: KAMN], markets and supports its SH-2G and K-MAX helicopters, is a subcontractor for complex metallic and composite structures and components for commercial, military and general aviation aircraft, designs and manufactures missile and bomb fuzing devices for the U.S. and allied militaries, and is a leading manufacturer of widely-used proprietary airframe bearings and components. Kaman Corporation conducts business in the aerospace and industrial distribution markets.
Headquartered in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin employs about 140,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products and services. The Corporation reported 2007 sales of $41.9 billion.