Kaman Helicopters Awarded Army Contract for Unmanned Helicopter Enhancements

The $2.9M contract will develop enhanced mission capabilities for the Unmanned K MAX helicopter.


BLOOMFIELD, CT, May 27, 2010 – Kaman Aerospace Corporation (Kaman) announced today that the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC), has awarded a $2.9M contract to Kaman’s Helicopter Division. The contract will develop enhanced mission capabilities for the Unmanned K MAX helicopter.

“Under the contract, Kaman Helicopters will be adding mission equipment to a test aircraft that helps elevate the reliability of unmanned aircraft to the standards the K-MAX attains in commercial operations,” stated Terry Fogarty, general manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Group for Kaman Helicopters. “While this is not a deployment contract, it continues our efforts as we prepare for a potential opportunity for a military deployment later this year.” Kaman’s commercial operators boast 98-99 percent availability rates in the harsh helicopter logging environment, where K-MAX rotorcraft deliver 6,000 pound loads 20 to 30 times per hour. A single K-MAX often moves more than one-million pounds of timber in a single day, and has exceeded two-million pounds in a single day on numerous occasions.

The 2010 Unmanned K-MAX AMRDEC program takes the next step toward fielding a deployable system in a military environment, with primary focus on those operations in theater. Because of the geographically dispersed nature of the U.S. and coalition forces, manned aviation assets are often over extended. Unmanned K-MAX potentially provides technological solutions to supplement these constrained assets by using a VTOL UAV to relieve manned aviation assets from flying some missions, such as resupply, thereby releasing invaluable manned aviation assets for more demanding operations. These concepts address current high priority U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability gaps.

Under its own funding, Kaman is developing autonomous pick-up technologies that will allow the Unmanned K-MAX to attach loads without human intervention. The development will also provide for pin-point delivery as determined by the soldier on the ground. “This type of technology could have many uses, including autonomous collection of retrograde after dropping off supplies, reducing soldier exposure to enemy fire,” stated Sal Bordonaro, president of Kaman Helicopters.

Kaman designed the K-MAX helicopter to deliver sling loads up to 6,000 pounds at sea level, and more than 4,300 pounds at 15,000 feet. Lockheed Martin’s mission management and control systems give the K-MAX helicopter unparalleled flight autonomy in remote environments and over large distances.

In January, Kaman and Lockheed Martin conducted a U.S. Marine Corps demonstration where multiple loads were placed at precise locations using sling-load delivery methods with the Unmanned K-MAX. Kaman and Lockheed demonstrated their four-hook carousel system during that demonstration, autonomously placing four separate loads at four separate locations.

Kaman recently conducted 11 cargo airdrop tests from 300 feet to 400 feet above ground level, in partnership with the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), where Kaman again used its four-hook carousel system, and during one flight, demonstrated four airdrops in a single mission.

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