Air Transportation: K-Max Goes Over The Mountain


November 27, 2011: After several years of testing and tweaking, the U.S. Marine Corps has sent its first K-Max helicopter UAV [PHOTO] to Afghanistan. This UAV will not be used for reconnaissance or firing missiles, but to deliver supplies. The K-MAX UAV was originally designed as a single seat helicopter that could carry sling loads of 2.8 tons (6,000 pounds) at sea level, or two tons (4,300 pounds) at 4,800 meters (15,000 feet). The 5.5 ton K-Max has a cruise speed of 185 kilometers an hour and can stay in the air for 2.6 hours per sortie. One of the most attractive features of the K-Max is the amount of automation in the aircraft. The flight control software can be programmed where to take, and drop, a cargo, and then return and land automatically. The operator can intervene at any time, but most of the time the operator just monitors viscams attached to the K-Max to ensure nothing goes wrong.

Last year, the U.S. Army also conducted tests using a K-Max to deliver supplies. This involved using the army low altitude parachute, which can deliver loads of 36 kg (80 pounds) to 273 kg (600 pounds) at heights of 48-100 meters. The K-MAX had a special rig that could carry and release four different payloads, and demonstrated its ability to drop each one at a different location. The low altitude drops are more accurate than higher altitude ones, and useful where the troops getting the stuff are on hilly ground that has few good helicopter landing zones. The army is also planning to test using K-MAX to drop loads from higher altitudes, using GPS guided parachutes. The army and marines are planning to obtain their helicopter UAVs to drop supplies via parachute to troops in isolated areas. If the army makes this work, the marines will use these delivery techniques as well.




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