While armed drones like the Predator tend to attract most of the attention when it comes to military use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the unmanned K-MAX helicopter recently demonstrated its ability to evacuate wounded fighters from a hypothetical battlefield.
During a demonstration put on by Lockheed Martin, Kaman Aerospace and Neya Systems on March 26, an unmanned ground vehicle was dispatched to respond to a distress call and assess the area and injured party. An airlift was then requested and a K-MAX was sent to the scene. Ground personnel using a tablet set the landing area for the unmanned chopper. The injured team member was subsequently strapped into a seat on the side of the craft, which then flew to safety.
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The K-MAX has been flying unmanned cargo resupply missions in-theater since 2011 when it performed the first such flight. Last August, the K-MAX also demonstrated its ability to deliver a Squad Mission Support System (SMSS) unmanned ground vehicle via a sling load. It's also been floated for possible use fighting forest fires and shown its ability to autonomously pick up and drop water loads.
"This application of the unmanned K-MAX enables day or night transport of wounded personnel to safety without endangering additional lives," says Jay McConville at Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training.
The K-MAX spent nearly three years deployed with the US Marine Corps in Afghanistan and elsewhere, conducting resupply operations that involved delivering more than 4.5 million pounds in cargo over the course of more nearly 2,000 missions.
The twin-rotor helicopter is designed to maximize lift in a variety of environments, including high altitudes and desert climates and under weather conditions where manned craft would be unable to fly.
Source: Lockheed MartinView gallery - 4 images