Kaman Aerospace’s Unmanned K-Max Reports for Duty
Kaman Helicopters’ (Booth No. 5222) K-Max “unmanned aerial truck” has delivered nearly 200,000 pounds of cargo since the helicopter entered service in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps on December 17. Two of the pilotless, heavy-lift helicopters have logged about 100 hours over the skies of Afghanistan on cargo missions.
During a recent mission on Sunday, an unmanned K-Max delivered 14,000 pounds of cargo in Afghanistan over four sorties in less than 24 hours, Kaman Helicopters division president Sal Bordonaro told AIN. “This helicopter delivers cargo more cost-efficiently, and saves lives,” he said, compared with road convoys that require aerial support and are more prone to attacks, both by gunfire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) hidden in dirt roads.
Kaman, which developed the unmanned helicopter in partnership with Lockheed Martin, is awaiting a potential order from the U.S. Marines for more pilotless ships. If this contract materializes, Bordonaro said the company will restart K-Max production, and it is now readying to do so. The last K-Max came off the production line almost 12 years ago, but for now there is no firm date set to restart manufacturing.
Meanwhile, Kaman is conducting flight tests and initial production of small composite rotor blades for the U.S. Special Operations Forces AH-6 “Little Bird.” The graphite epoxy blades, which are lighter and stronger than the metal ones they replace, have tapered tips that help improve hot-and-high capability for the six-blade helicopter.
According to Bordonaro, the composite blades are interchangeable with the AH-6’s existing hub system, meaning retrofit is fairly easy. There also will be a civil application for the new rotor blades for MD Helicopters’ MD500 and 600 series, given that the AH-6 is derived from this family.