Kaman Aerospace and Lockheed Martin have transformed a K-MAX helicopter into an unmanned "aerial truck" capable of autonomously resupplying US troops at forward operating bases (FOBs) in Afghanistan.
During a recent demonstration in Utah, Kaman and Lockheed showcased the autonomous and remote control sling load delivery over both line-of-sight and satellite-base beyond-line-of-sight data links.
Additional tests were conducted in April, with the US Army successfully executing 11 cargo airdrop tests from 300 ft. to 400 ft. above ground level.
Kaman deployed its four-hook carousel for the drops, and during one flight, demonstrated four airdrops in a single mission.
The airdrops were performed using the Army's low cost low altitude cross parachute, a one-time-use expendable aerodynamic decelerator that costs about $375.
Currently used to airdrop supplies from manned aircraft in Afghanistan, the parachute is capable of handling 80 to 600 pound payloads delivered from 150 ft to 300 ft altitudes above ground level.
"[We] designed the K-MAX helicopter to deliver sling loads up to 6,000 pounds at sea level, and 4,300 pounds at 15,000 ft," explained Terry Fogarty, general manager of Unmanned Aircraft at Kaman.
"Airdropping cargo as an option to placing a sling load on the ground can enhance an unmanned aircraft's survivability while delivering critical supplies in combat environments."