On December 17th, a detachment from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron deployed at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, sent the K-MAX UAV to make its first autonomous delivery in a combat zone. The K-MAX delivered almost 3,500 pounds of supplies to soldiers stationed at Combat Outpost Payne. This operation kicked off a 6 month assessment period being conducted by the Marines prior to deciding whether or not to fully implement the K-MAX. Each flight during this test period will be used to gather data in order to improve the system’s ease of operation.
As was mentioned in a previous post, the K-MAX is an unmanned, autonomous helicopter being built jointly by Lockheed Martin and Kaman Aerospace Corporation. The primary purpose of the K-MAX is to support the transport of supplies, most often to forward deployed troops. A key attribute of the K-MAX system is that it reduces the amount of time pilots need to be put into harm’s way. In addition to reducing risk to pilots, the K-MAX also takes the burden off of supply convoys traversing roads laden with IED’s while making the delivery in less time.
The potential the K-MAX system represents is so great that Time Magazine named it one of 2011’s best inventions. Time cited that K-MAX provides “a safer way to supply troops deep inside hostile territory.”