You've gotta hand it to Kaman's K-MAX UAS unmanned helicopter ... it's been used to deliver cargo in a combat zone, it's set altitude and payload weight records for airdrops, and it's been part of an autonomous air/ground mission. Now it's teamed up with a quadcopter in an exercise which suggests that the two could be used to fight forest fires, without endangering human pilots.

The exercise was conducted earlier this month at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY, where a contained fire was lit to stand in for burning trees.

A Lockheed Martin Indago quadcopter was then flown over the field by remote control, and used its gimbal-mounted electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) imager to detect the flames. It alerted its human operator to the presence and location of the fire.

The K-MAX helicopter was subsequently set into action, using an autonomous control system developed by Lockheed Martin to lift over 24,000 lb (10,886 kg) of water from a nearby pond. It proceeded to the location identified by the Indago, using its own EO/IR to home in on the blaze. It then dumped the water on the fire, extinguishing it.

During the exercise, the helicopter's ability to deliver supplies and personnel to and from forest fires was also demonstrated.

"The unmanned K-MAX and Indago aircraft can work to fight fires day and night, in all weather, reaching dangerous areas without risking a life," said Dan Spoor, vice president of Aviation and Unmanned Systems at Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business.

Highlights from the exercise can be seen in the video below.

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