A K-MAX helicopter converted for unmanned operation by Lockheed Martin and Kaman has proven in tests that it can re-supply troops with cargo airdropped by parachute.
Kaman originally designed the single-seat K-MAX heavy-lift helicopter to deliver sling loads up to 6,000lb at sea level and 4,300lb at 15,000ft.
In late April, Kaman, in partnership with the US Army’s Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC), conducted 11 cargo airdrop tests from 300ft to 400ft above ground level. Kaman used its four-hook carousel for the drops, and during one flight, demonstrated four airdrops in a single mission.
Kaman performed the airdrops using the army’s low-altitude cross parachute. Currently used to airdrop supplies from manned aircraft in Afghanistan, the parachute is designed to handle 80 to 600lb payloads delivered from 150ft to 300ft altitudes above ground level.
’These airdrop tests continue our progress to advance the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter as a battlefield cargo delivery system,’ said Terry Fogarty, general manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Product Group at Kaman Helicopters. ’Airdropping cargo as an option to placing a sling load on the ground can enhance an unmanned aircraft’s survivability while delivering supplies in combat environments.’
Future tests may include the use of single and/or multiple Joint Precision Airdrop Systems (JPADS) from higher altitudes. JPADS could be used in higher threat environments to re-supply multiple and dispersed ground forces from one unmanned K-MAX release.