Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pilotless helicopter makes first supply drop in Afghanistan

The Marine Corps used an unmanned helicopter to deliver cargo to troops in Afghanistan for the first time this month.

A detachment of Marines from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 moved about 3,500 pounds of food and supplies to troops at Combat Outpost Payne using an unmanned K-MAX helicopter on Dec. 17, according to Kyle O’Connor, the officer in charge of the detachment.

“We delivered cargo today that was supposed to be delivered by convoy (and) now that convoy has three pallets that it does not have to carry,” O’Connor said in a Marine Corps news release.

The unmanned K-MAX, built by Kaman and Lockheed-Martin, can lift its own weight — 6,000 pounds – at sea level, according to Dan Spoor, Lockheed Martin aviation systems vice president.

The aircraft can lift four 750-pound pallets using a carousel system. It can fly to up to four remote locations, drop supplies at each within a 10-meter circle and return to base using GPS coordinates, Spoor said before the aircraft deployed to Afghanistan.

“An entire mission can be done autonomously with nobody controlling the aircraft other than the person who programmed the mission beforehand,” he said.