Lockheed Martin is preparing a series of demonstration flights to prove the capability of its K-Max unmanned air vehicle to transport and deploy an autonomous ground vehicle. In an effort to prove the potential of “robots moving robots”, the VTOL UAV – derived from the manned Kaman helicopter – will next month take part in the US Army-led trials which will see it carry a Lockheed Martin Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“For this demonstration the thought process behind it is to use unmanned to move unmanned,” Jon McMillen, business development lead for K-Max, says.
“This will be getting assets in the air to move things on the ground. This is really a proof of concept of how this will happen.”
The K-Max is capable of carrying loads of up to 6,000lb (2,720kg), while the SMSS weighs some 4-5,000lb. K-Max has been deployed in Afghanistan in a cargo-transport role, during which it has carried 4,500lb payloads in the hot and high conditions. “It’s far more than many aircraft could do,” McMillen says.
Meanwhile the UAV is also due to undergo further testing with the army under its Autonomous Technologies for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (ATUAS) programme, for which the K-Max has previously demonstrated multiple vehicle-agnostic autonomous capabilities.
Previous testing was carried out in 2013, but modifications have been made to the system, which the army is expected to test in the coming months.
“We are essentially extending that work that we did,” McMillen added. “We’ve been doing refinements and will be ramping up the flight testing portion.”
In parallel to the military testing, Lockheed is also looking to certificate the platform for flight in US civil airspace, which McMillen says could open up the use of the K-Max for fire-fighting applications, for example.
Source: Flight Global