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Kaman Aerospace Corporation, a subsidiary of Kaman Corporation, and the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) recently made aviation history with the Unmanned K-MAX helicopter by successfully completing multiple guided airdrops via sling load at 10,000 ft above sea level.
In four separate flights conducted on January 24-25, 2011 at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Arizona, the K-MAX successfully airdropped 16 payloads; 10 GPS guided Joint Precision Aerial Delivery Systems (JPADS), two of which were triggered remotely from the Unmanned K-MAX ground control station. Payloads included medical equipment, food, simulated leaflets and bulk cargo.
Among the “firsts” achieved by the optionally piloted aircraft are being the largest payload, 4,400lbs, airdropped via sling load from a helicopter (four 1,100 lb payloads); the highest altitude for payloads airdropped from a sling load (10,000 ft above sea level); the first airdrop of four guided JPADS systems from a sling load; the first airdrop for the High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute system from a helicopter sling load (prototype HALO Leaflet Delivery System); and first demonstrated non-line-of-sight (NLOS) ability to dynamically re-task slingload JPADS ground target points.
The effort was executed under a Cooperative Research & Development Agreement (CRADA) with support from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Rapid Fielding Directorate (OSD RFD), Joint Medical Distance Support and Evacuation Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JMDSE JCTD) with U.S. Joint Forces Command as Operational Manager and US Army NSRDEC as Technical Manager.
Richard Benney, division leader, Aerial Delivery Equipment and Systems Division of NSRDEC, said “This was a very impressive and successful demonstration.” Benney also said, “The Unmanned K-MAX met all of our objectives. Transitioning this capability to the warfighter could be the next step.”
Terry Fogarty, general manager of Kaman’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems product group, said “These airdrops prove K-MAX’s ability to provide a safe, low-cost supply delivery method to the troops.” Fogarty also said, “The aircraft’s ability to successfully perform high altitude missions contributes to the flexibility and security we can offer the Marines with K-MAX.”