An unmanned helicopter that can lift up to 6,000 pounds (2,722 kg) completed its first flight recently, Kaman Air Vehicles, the helicopter manufacturer has announced.
According to the company, K-MAX Titan is the world’s first heavy lift unmanned helicopter.
While the maiden flight milestone was made by a helicopter for the commercial market, the company is also working with the US Marine Corps on upgrading the autonomous capabilities of the service’s two K-MAX air vehicles through a funded government contract.
Flight-testing with the marines’ unmanned helicopters is expected to start next month. The USMC experiment includes Kaman’s K-MAX and Near Earth Autonomy’s sensor-based autonomy suite.
K-Max has already flown unmanned cargo missions for US forces in Afghanistan.
While the K-Max already incorporates a lot of automation, enabling the single pilot it can seat in its cabin to focus on the mission, the Titan system takes the pilot completely out of the loop.
Titan will be available for existing K-MAX aircraft as well as on new production K-MAX helicopters. The K-MAX features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimized for repetitive external load operations.
“We are excited to reach this major milestone on K-MAX Titan – watching this capability take to the skies and knowing that we are going to solve some of the toughest challenges for our commercial and military customers,” stated Roger Wassmuth, senior director, business development, Air Vehicles Division.